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Kirkus Review of Compass to Vinland

A debut middle-grade novel sees a teenage loner discover his magical heritage and become embroiled in an otherworldly conflict.


Middle schooler Wren Larkin lives in Pennsylvania in a peculiar old house designed by his grandfather to resemble a gigantic shoe. Wren has an affinity with nature. He grows plants and befriends a murder of crows. But otherwise, he keeps to himself. Wren’s mother fell into a coma when he was 4 years old. His father is emotionally distant, and his eccentric aunt—the one who told him crazy stories of a magical kingdom named Vinland—died a few years back in a car accident, or so Wren was told. But Wren’s life is about to be turned upside down. The same day he thinks he sees his aunt in the fog, new girl Maria Tovar arrives at school and takes an instant liking to him. She also defends the class troublemaker, Rusty Whitaker. Before Wren knows it, the three are thrown together against a powerful Drainer (a magician who can suck the life out of any living thing). In a world suddenly bristling with magic, Wren and his new friends are armed only with three pairs of enchanted shoes that the teen’s grandfather left for them years ago in a secret room in the quirky house. Were all of his aunt’s stories true? What further secrets lie hidden in Wren’s lineage? In this series opener, Resh writes in the first person, past tense, creating in Wren a complex personality with relatable teen troubles but plenty of strength. The other characters are less nuanced—Rusty in particular is larger than life, verging on a cliché—but this perhaps is in keeping with the infusion of magic in what Wren had taken to be his own, admittedly atypical, corner of the mundane world. The prose throughout is engaging, with the author presenting an agreeable mix of description, narrative, and mostly naturalistic dialogue. The plot is absorbing and gains momentum as it goes along, displaying a wild imagination and pitting its protagonists against genuine peril. The ending may not satisfy those readers who like their books self-contained, but for those who can move directly to the sequel, there’s a great deal here to like.


An engrossing fantasy laced with inventive sparkle and dark undercurrents.

Review of Clarity of Sight by Bee on Goodreads

5 Stars

As a passionate fan of the Magic Shoe series, I couldn't have been more thrilled with "Clarity of Sight," the second installment that effortlessly surpassed the already high expectations set by its predecessor. This book takes the series to new heights, earning a solid 5 out of 5 in my book.

Unlike the first installment, which expertly laid the foundation for the magical world, "Clarity of Sight" propels readers straight into a whirlwind of action. The pace is exhilarating, and the narrative seamlessly picks up where the first book left off. The author doesn't waste any time, plunging us into the heart of Maria’s journey.

One of the most delightful aspects of this sequel is the shift in perspective. Seeing the magical realm through Maria's eyes adds a layer of depth to the story. In the first book, I wasn’t too much of a fan of Maria. However, in this one her character comes alive with a perfect blend of vulnerability and strength, making her an even more relatable and compelling protagonist.

The author skillfully weaves together elements of adventure, friendship, heartbreak, love, and family, creating a rich tapestry of emotions that kept me hooked from start to finish.

Dani Resh navigates the complexities of human experience with finesse. The relationships between characters are nuanced and authentic, adding a layer of realism to the fantastical setting.

Clarity of Sight is not just a one-time read; it's a book that lingers in your thoughts, urging you to revisit its pages! I found myself captivated by the characters and the world they inhabit, and I have no doubt that this is a story I'll return to again. I cannot wait for book 3!


Review of Compass to Vinland by Emily on Goodreads

5 Stars

~a middle-grade hit that was a total surprise~
Brief Synopsis: Wren Larkin’s life starts to turn upside down when he starts seeing ghosts, the new girl at school seems to know him somehow, and a group of really strange people show up at his house…his house that’s shaped like a shoe.
I was totally blown away by this debut! The pacing was spot on throughout the whole book, which is a difficult feat, and the world-building was just SO cool and SO unique!

The highest praise I can probably give is that I started getting hardcore Hobbit vibes from this book - just calmly and unpretentiously world-building a masterpiece right before our eyes, and filling this world with an incredible cast of characters! 


Review of Clarity of Sight by Michele on LibraryThing:

5 Stars

Omgosh, I am completely in love with this series! This book was more exciting than the first, and if the third book doesn’t come out soon, there’s a possibility that I may spontaneously combust! It’s like The Chronicles of Narnia meets Harry Potter! There’s adventure and friendship, heartbreak, love, and family. I can’t get enough, and I know it’s something I’ll read again.

Review of Compass to Vinland by Pikasho Deka for Readers Favorite

5 Stars

Author Dani Resh takes you on a wild rollercoaster of a ride that you don't want to get off. Compass to Vinland is an invigorating adventure odyssey full of magic and charm that keeps you entertained all the way through. Moving at a blistering pace, the plot twists and turns in unexpected ways, keeping you engaged and making you turn the pages with eager anticipation of what's to come. The characters are full of life, with distinct personalities that make for some compelling character arcs. I adored Wren, Maria, and Rusty's friendship, and the dynamic between the three propels the narrative forward. Compass to Vinland is a book that kids of all ages should be able to enjoy. If you love shows like Stranger Things, give it a go.

Review of Clarity of Sight from Britney on LibraryThing:

5 Stars

Book 2 in the Magic Shoe Series Clarity of Sight by Dani Resh did NOT disappoint! Do not sleep on this middle grade fantasy series. This gave me the feels of Harry Potter, Peter Pan, and a dash of Journey to the Center of the Earth. This middle grade fantasy was magically adventurous and sucked me right in. With a major plot twist towards the end it will have you on the edge of your seat and begging for book #3.


Review of Compass to Vinland by Kristine Zimmerman for Readers' Favorite

5 Stars

Compass to Vinland was a book I couldn't put down. Dani Resh does an outstanding job of developing all her characters. Her writing pulled me in right away with the description of Wren and his daily routine, taking care of the birds and plants, and the distance he feels from his dad. Then the exciting and intriguing adventure starts, and the action doesn't stop. As a former children's librarian, I would definitely recommend this to kids that loved Harry Potter or Septimus Heap. Resh has created a unique world filled with characters we care about, strange creatures, new lands, and unusual magical powers. I am eagerly waiting to read the next book in the series. Compass to Vinland has it all: magic, adventure, villains, and heroes. I highly recommend this book!

Review of Compass to Vinland by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
5 Stars

Wren’s not the most popular boy in town. It doesn’t help that he’s so thin and tall and he lives in a house that looks like an old shoe. He hates school, especially the teacher, but he loves his birds, making birdhouses, and growing things in his greenhouse. Things start to change when a new girl moves to town. Maria seems to know him before she’s even introduced. And the other misfit, Rusty, considered by many to be a bad boy, really was very insightful and trusting. The three bond together as if it were meant to be, and when they find three pairs of shoes hidden under the heel of Wren’s shoe house, life becomes quite magical and unexpected. There is evil on the children’s trail, an evil that has designs for these shoes as they have magical powers meant only for the children. And, there is a heritage that Wren is about to discover, a journey to another reality that will help him learn who he really is.

Dani Resh’s fantasy novel, Compass to Vinland, is the first book in a middle-grade fantasy series. Told in the first-person narrative from Wren’s point of view, the plot is full of captivating twists and turns and the dynamics between the young people are so realistic, young readers will instantly relate. There are all manner of characters one would expect to find in a middle-grade school setting: bullies and those who are bullied, those who wish and try to remain invisible, mean teachers, team leaders, evildoers, dysfunctional adults and so much more. This makes the story very realistic. The compass, interestingly, is more than a treasure. A tool to guide young people, it's a metaphor for life itself and where it will take us. Fascinating concept. The descriptive narrative is full of interesting details. Dialogue breaks up the lengthy narrative passages and helps move the story along. This book will definitely appeal to the older middle-grade audience.

Review of Compass to Vinland by Dakota Love from Reedsy Discovery

4 Stars

Compass to Vinland is a gripping narrative that draws the reader into its world of myth and magic from the very first chapter. Young Wren is a character that is easy to identify with, as he struggles with his complicated family dynamic and finding his place in the world. As Wren is aided by Rusty, the teenage tough kid with a difficult home life and a heart of gold, the action starts to hit high gear. Maria, the determined girl who doesn't hesitate to speak her mind, also joins in for a journey of epic proportions that doesn't stop until the final page.


I loved the complex mythos of the world, and the inclusion of many world cultures, from Viking legend to Native American lore. The story discusses the importance of tolerance at length, without being overly preachy about it. There are bold storytelling moments, with multiple characters facing their difficult family situations. And there is such a rich variety of characters that are memorable and relatable, from the conflicted Tristan to the edgy Eyota and her best friend to the hard-as-nails Mrs. Tovar. The story was so engrossing that I truly felt transported to this legendary world, and the final chapter left me hungry for more.

Customer of Compass to VinlandReview from Barnes and Noble

5 Stars - Magic and Family

The best fantasy writing teaches us about humanity and contains magical worlds that reveal more about the human condition. This captivating tale does just that! At its heart, it’s a story about family…in all of its messiness and challenge…and growing up, finding one’s path, and expanding notions of what and who counts as family — or finding one’s “found family.” As young Wren makes his way, through self-discovery and magic, we grow to care about him and feel like we’re on the journey with him. This book is a joy! Full of relatable, endearing characters! And perhaps most importantly, Resh’s smart, empathetic approach and gentle hand (never forcing the dialogue or attempting to write “for young adults”) wins over readers of all ages! I highly recommend this book and look forward to book #2!

Customer Review from Barnes and Noble:

5 stars - My 7th Graders LOVED It!

I have twin 12 year olds who both devoured this book! They are avid readers & especially enjoy fantasy & sci fi. Both said they enjoyed it more than Harry Potter & can’t wait for it to be made into a film! Quite the endorsement. Compass had them hooked & they are now eagerly awaiting the next installment in the Magic Shoe series!!

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