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"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."— John Green



TitleThe Bear House (#1)
Authors(s): Meaghan McIsaac
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Edition: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook; 368 pgs
PublisherHoliday House
SourceRockstar Book Tours
PurchaseAmazon - Kindle - Audible - B&N - BAM! - iBooks - Kobo - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.

Tour Schedule

Week One
10/18/2021 - Rockstar Book Tours - Kickoff Post
10/18/2021 - Log Cabin Library - Excerpt
10/19/2021 - BookHounds YA - Excerpt
10/19/2021 - Kait Plus Books - Excerpt
10/20/2021 - The Bookwyrm's Den - Excerpt
10/21/2021 - Jazzy Book Reviews - Excerpt
10/21/2021 - Two Chicks on Books - Excerpt
10/22/2021 - Jaime's World - Review
10/22/2021 - Books a Plenty Book Reviews - Review

Week Two
10/25/2021 - Lifestyle of Me - Review
10/25/2021 - Rajiv's Reviews - Review
10/26/2021 - The Momma Spot - Review
10/26/2021 - Little Red Reads - Review
10/27/2021 - Two Points of Interest - Review
10/27/2021 - Books and Zebras  - Review
10/28/2021 - Eli to the nth - Review
10/28/2021 - The Reading Wordsmith - Review
10/29/2021 - History from a Woman’s Perspective  - Review

The Summary

In a gritty medieval world where the ruling houses are based on the constellations, betrayal, intrigue, and a king's murder force the royal sisters of the Bear House on the run!

Moody Aster and her spoiled sister Ursula are the daughters of Jasper Lourdes, Major of Bears and lord of all the realm. Rivals, both girls dream of becoming the Bear queen someday, although neither really deserve to, having no particular talent in... well, anything.

But when their Uncle Bram murders their father in a bid for the crown, the girls are forced onto the run, along with lowly Dev the Bearkeeper and the Lourdes's half-grown grizzly Alcor, symbol of their house. As a bitter struggle for the throne consumes the kingdom in civil war, the sisters must rely on Dev, the bear cub, and each other to survive--and find wells of courage, cunning, and skill they never knew they had.

"Weaves intrigue and adventure. . . . An epic, complex narrative."—Publishers Weekly
"The stellar worldbuilding is both expansive and accessible, and the action never falters. . . . Thrilling adventure set in an enchanting world makes this an easy pick for high fantasy fans."—Kirkus Reviews
My Review

The Bear House by Meaghan McIsaac was one of the best fantasies I have read this year!  I was immediately captivated by the story, and devoured the book in two days.  You find yourself in a lush, exciting, and harrowing adventure, one you never want to stop.  And while this book seems self-contained, which I miss in a lot of fantasies lately, it is actually book one of a series.  Which means I get to revisit this world and I am so excited about that!

This is some of the best worldbuilding I have gotten to read in a middle grade book.  The complexity and extent of the religious system/ruling system in this book is unique.  Based on constellations, this world is guided by the "On-High", the stars who are believed to have created High Beasts to protect and rule over the world, with the animals residing in separate kingdoms within the overall Highen.  The greatest of them all in the Bear Highen is the Hemoth Bear kingdom, or Tawnshire.  Within the Bear Highen are 7 other kingdoms: Whitlock (White Bear), Felisbrook (Lynx), Dracogart (Shadow Dragon), Twigate (Blue Giraffe), Roarque (Lion), and Hundford (Starhound).  But while these are all individual kingdoms, they are ruled by the Major, the one chosen by the Hemoth Bear to be its partner.  There is much more to it then this, but that is part of the enjoyment of the story. 

The pace of this book is non-stop; it takes a couple of chapters to start, but once it does, hold on.  The current Major's kingdom is under attack.  His daughters, Ursula and Aster, both possible heirs to the throne, are in danger, escaping out of Tawnshire with the Apprentice Keeper Dev and the Hemoth bear cub, Alcor--not such a little bear.  Being both spoiled brats, the journey to protect their lives and their kingdom forces the princesses to grow, both in their spirit and in their skills.  There is a lot of intrigue along with the adventure, making this a fun twisty book in some respects.  There are small times of rest, but the danger is never over, so constant situations arise that need to be dealt with, all pushing the story to the conclusion.  With the pacing, you, as the reader, are pushed along just as quickly as the kids, but it never seems forced.

With the action being non-stop, it is also brutal in many aspects.  This world is mediaeval in presentation, so with that comes some very harsh realities.  The phrase "fight for your life" applies here, with characters in the book being murdered.  Not graphically depicted, but not shied away from either.  Also, the imperfections and evil of humans are explored, teaching lessons about morality, without being obvious or preachy.

As the book progresses, you also get to meet two princes from other kingdoms and their perspectives on what is happening in the realm.  This goes back to the worldbuilding, making the reader understand that there is so much more to explore here, as each kingdom is different.  Also, there are other Highens out there in the greater world, which add another layer to the situation completely.  This also expands the possibility of further stories within the book series as a whole, which is very exciting.

Overall, this one is perfect for the young reader who wants to read high fantasy, but are perhaps a little too young for adult fiction.  However, this book is definitely on par with those adult series, and I believe would be of interest to adult readers as well.  Beautifully crafted, The Bear House by Meaghan McIsaac is a wonderful start to an exciting series I can't wait to read more in!

Final Rating



Many different stars— light upon light upon light— but alone, they were not enough. 

To cure their loneliness, their light combined, and of them were born the High Beasts, each belonging to their own quadrant of heaven. 

To the skies of the South were born the High Fly, the Glimmer Snake, and more. And the stars of the South became known as the Waters. 

To the skies of the East and West were born the Dust Ram, the White Bull, the Star Twins, the Prism Scorpion, and more. These traveled together, one after the other, a ring of High Beasts in a never- ending loop. 

These stars became the Ring. 

To the skies of the North were born the White Bear, the Shadow Dragon, the Starhound, and more. But of them all, the stars loved the firstborn Bear best. And so the northern stars became the stars of the Great Bear. 

When from the earth, Man emerged from the darkness, looking to the sky for guidance, the stars stretched out their light and sent these beasts to lead him, bringing them into the flesh. 

And Man worshipped the stars, and he worshipped the beasts, and the beasts were sacred to him. 

Thus, beneath the heavenly sea of the Waters, the Highen of the Waters was born. 

Beneath the Ring’s milky skies grew the Highen of the Ring. 

And beneath the crisp, dark skies of the Great Bear, the mighty Bear Highen began. 

— THE WRITINGS OF BERN, On the Founding of Highens: The Fore,  Star Writ 


THE Shadow Dragons were screaming. Their cries rose out of the dark, echoing over the peak of Mount Draccus. 

Men had come for their eggs. 

Quintin Wyvern crouched in the shadows of a rocky outcrop, watching the retrieval party approach the nests. The young prince had promised his father he would stay in the castle by his ailing mother’s bedside. An outbreak of firelung had taken hold of the Kingdom of Dracogart, and Mother was just one of many fighting to survive. But that night, when the dragons began wailing, Lady Wyvern had squeezed Quintin’s hand. 

“Go,” she told him, her breath ragged from the sickness. “Go and witness their sacrifice.” 

And so Quintin left her. He had followed hidden paths so as not to be seen, the mountain’s breath thick and fetid and burning his lungs. 

From his vantage point behind an outcrop of obsidian, Quintin saw the lights of the city of Dracogart below, saw the men in impressive armor walking up the main road, their horses sidestepping with nerves. 

The mother dragons hissed at their approach, plumes of smoke billowing from their gaping mouths in warning. Only three eggs had been laid that year, each one a precious gift from the stars. They would take a further two years to hatch. 

One of them would never get that chance. 

There was a chirrup at his back, and Quintin startled. He turned and saw a Shadow Dragon, a juvenile female, crouched on the stones above him. She blinked at him, her yellow eyes anxious. 


Quintin pressed a finger to his lips and turned back to watch the soldiers. 

The mother dragons paced, encircling their nests. The light of the men’s torches danced and glinted off their dark, stony scales. 

Quintin knew they would not give up an egg without a fight. 

Shadow Dragons did not abide the laws of men. 

And yet the law demanded an egg all the same. Word had reached Dracogart a week ago from the Major: the Kingdom of the Shadow Dragon must surrender one egg. And that egg would pay for the firelung cure that could only be found in the land of their enemies, the Ring Highen. 

“We can’t!” his mother had said, fuming, when she had still been well enough to stand. “There has to be another way!” 

Chancellor Furia, King Wyvern’s most trusted advisor, had agreed— even though Furia and Queen Wyvern rarely agreed on anything. “Sire, it is too sinful even to think of.” 

The eggs of the Shadow Dragon were sacred. Blessings from the holy stars themselves. How could Dracogart allow anyone to take what had been given by the stars? 

“The Major was chosen to be Major because he is favored by the stars,” King Wyvern told them. “If the Major believes this is the way to save our people, then we must trust that he is right.” 

Save the people, yes . And more importantly now,  thought Quintin, save Mother.  Her condition was worsening by the hour. 

But still, he felt a nervousness in his gut. What if Father was wrong to allow this? 

Umbra chirruped again, as if she could read his thoughts. 

Quintin looked beyond Dracogart’s rocky valley, over which the mountain’s shadow fell— Father was out there, somewhere, hunting with his mount Draco, the largest dragon alive, the dragon- king of the Shadow Dragons. When the Major’s men had left the castle for the mountain path to retrieve the egg, Father had left with Draco— the king of dragons would be angry to hear his wives so distressed, he’d said. 

But Quintin knew the truth. Seeing the Major’s men take an egg from the Shadow Dragons’ nest was too painful for even his father to bear. 

There were shouts from the men in armor, and when Quintin looked, one had approached the edge of the nest. The man held a spear, its tip fitted with a fat, dripping hearth weasel— as if a treat would be enough to trade a dragon for her child. 

One of the mother dragons slunk toward him, a threatening hiss venting from her smoking maw. The fins at the edge of her jaw fluttered. She was eager to crunch bone.
“Courage, men!”  shouted someone. “Hold!”  cried another. And still more were roaring orders as the man in armor inched closer to the dragon. 

Quintin held his breath. The young soldier stepped across the line on the ground where the rock had been scorched by dragon breath— the threshold of the nest. 

“Too close,” Quintin whispered. 

The mother dragons reared up, all of them screaming in unison, black wings flapping. The foremost dragon lunged, her powerful jaws snapping with a thunderous clap just short of the young man’s belly. 

The dragons’ screams built on one another, the noise folding onto itself, lifting with a ferocious desperation. They were screaming for Draco. 

Draco, whose size and power would protect them all. 

Draco, their king. 

Quintin’s eyes burned with tears. Draco was with his father. 

Draco would not save them. 

And then a roar exploded from somewhere below the mountain. 

It was so loud and resonant, it was as if the earth itself had opened up. 


No. This roar was earthbound. Not of the sky. 

Quintin heard Umbra screech and skitter away, scurrying back to her family, back into a nest farther up the mountain. She was only a little dragon, after all, even if she was Draco’s daughter. 

The mother dragons’ mood shifted, their hissing and smoking replaced by a quiet, nervous chirping, tiny sparks spitting from the sides of their mouths. Quintin had never seen Shadow Dragons look like that— tails wrapped close to their sides, bellies pressed low to the ground, all huddled close together. They were frightened. Frightened of what was making its way up the mountain road. 

A bear. 

A bear unlike any Quintin had ever seen before. 

The hulking beast stood heads above the horses, her girth so wide it took up the entire path. Her long, grizzled fur looked like fire, a bright amber color that gleamed in the torchlight. Her jaws looked powerful enough to crush iron, her paws big enough to shake the earth. There was no mistaking it— a Hemoth Bear. 

She was Mizar. The mightiest creature in all of the Bear Highen.
And beside her stood a man, just as hulking and grizzled as she. 

The Bear Major himself: Jasper Lourdes. 

They approached the nest, the dragons clustered together in a quaking mass. Mizar the Hemoth chuffed and snorted, her massive footfalls causing the very earth to shake. 

Quintin watched as the Major placed a hand on the Hemoth’s flank and the bear stopped. The Major continued to approach and, without hesitation, stepped over the nest’s threshold. The dragons did not make a sound. He picked his way over rocks and boulders until he was standing above an egg, its black shell speckled with pinpricks of warm light. 

One of the mothers, the one who had snapped at the soldier, whined with alarm, and the Hemoth roared again, dislodging rock and stone from the mountainside and sending it tumbling down. 

Quintin threw his hands over his head to protect himself from the stony shower; dust powdered his shoulders. 

When the rumble faded to nothing, the dragons were silent again. 

Major Jasper Lourdes bent down to the egg and took it gently in his hands. 

Quintin longed to know how it felt. Warm, he imagined. Like the stones that lined the hearth fires in the castle. 

Finally, delicately, the High King of the Bear Highen fit the egg into the crook of his arm, as if cradling a baby, and bowed to the frightened flock of dragons. 

And just as suddenly as they’d arrived, the Major and the Hemoth left, disappearing down the mountain road with the Major’s soldiers following behind. 

Quintin was alone with the Shadow Dragons, trembling with his awe of the Hemoth Bear, and with fear and sadness for the egg the men had taken with them— the Shadow Dragon that would never be. 

About the Author

Meaghan McIsaac is the author of several books for young readers, including The Boys of Fire and Ash, which was shortlisted for the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award; and Movers, which was a Shining Willow Finalist for the Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice Awards. Meaghan lives in Toronto, Ontario with her two dogs.

3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE BEAR HOUSE, US Only.


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