This is perhaps one of the most imagination-filled reads we've had in a long while. The world the author creates, with so many new and different creatures and ideas, is astounding. Looking forward to reading more in this series.
Stella is the first girl in the Polar Bear Explorers' Club's history allowed to go on an expedition with her adopted father, Felix. He found her on another polar expedition, a dozen years ago, and something about the ice and the snow calls to Stella.
She ends up teaming up with three other junior explorers, Beanie and Shay, who're with the Polar Explorers too, and Ethan, from the rival Ocean Squid Explorers Club.
They get separated from the adults lickety-split and have to navigate frost fairies, a grim bed and breakfast, and finally...Stella's "destiny" as an ice princess. Then the fight is on to escape the ice palace of her parents, outrun a Yeti, and make it to the rendezvous point in time to not get left behind for the winter!
A roller coaster of a read, but a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequels.
The witch puppet Stella brought back from her first expedition is spying on her and it isn't long before a horrifying vulture appears and tries to kidnap her.
Without her ice tiara she's powerless, but her guardian Felix and polar bear Gruff save the day -- and her. She makes it inside the Club and Felix won't let her out again, not until he can bring the witch that killed Stella's parents to justice.
The witch is probably living on Witch Mountain, from which no explorer has ever returned. So Felix works through officials channels first -- but official channels move ex-tr-em-el-y s-l-o-w-l-y and his requests for justice get bandied from one bureaucrat to another.
Then her friend and fellow explorer, Ethan Rook, with the Ocean Squid Explorers Club, arrives. His father has brought a magical cuff that can control the bone-eating vulture threatening Stella.
Then the vulture breaks through a window in the Club and Felix springs into action, jumping onto it and getting the cuff around a leg. He's off to Witch Mountain, and of course, Stella and Ethan aren't far behind.
But first Stella wants to get her tiara. It's her only real source of power, the only way she has of protecting herself or her friends. Because Shay and Koa and Beanie, with his Eidetic memory, come to the Club at her request. The kids set off all kinds of alarms when they grab the tiara and race to the rooftop to escape. They find an unoccupied dirigible and steal it, and they're off to Witch Mountain to rescue Felix.
Except it's not unoccupied, of course. Gideon Smythe, son of the leader of the Jungle Cats Explorers Club, is on board and quite cross they've stolen his Club's dirigible, not to mention failed to realize what a great Picnic Master he is.
This book has so many twists and turns from this point I won't try to summarize them all. Read and enjoy the ride, literally!
And finally, in the third book, Stella's guardian, Felix, is put on trial for all he's done incorrectly in the Explorers Clubs and stripped of his membership, which means he can no longer mount expeditions. Officials then want to arrest Stella, just for being an Ice Princess. That simply can't be allowed to happen, as Shay and Koa are suffering from the Witch Wolf bite and don't have much time left.
To find the cure they must mount an expedition immediately to the Black Ice Bridge, where Beanie's father was lost eight years ago. Beanie has his father's journal, but the man was never heard from after his last entry. The bridge is an imposing and evil magic construction and was the roadway for another Ice Queen's escape after turning on her village and freezing the inhabitants. No one knows what lays on the other side.
There are subtle clues dropped along the way of a bigger, nefarious plan at work. In particular, pay attention to what areas on the "maps" disappear, completely, and just file them away for reference as you get closer to the end.
Stella conjures a sled and polar bears to whisk the exploring company, including herself, Felix, Beanie and his mom, Joss, Shay and Koa, and budding magician Ethan, into the freezing ocean. But Stella can't keep the magic going forever, and when the sled and bears fade, Ethan conjures…an inflatable hippo? Yes, which they ride until a band of mermaids finds them and very likely will drag them to their watery deaths until Beanie cures one with his elven healing magic.
That gets them a tow to the shore, and they walk to the village closest to the bridge -- the one that's inhabited by more than frozen statues. They push on to the Ice Queen's fortress, and as soon as Stella steps inside she brings it to life. They find a hidden staircase in the library and the queen's sleighs and gargoyles to pull them. The gargoyles try to warn them, but Stella comes face-to-face with an ice dragon, angry at being woken up, or so she thinks. She puts it back to sleep, but not before it conveniently walls the adults, Joss and Felix, behind a block of ice so they have to bow out of the expedition. The party that leaves for the Black Ice Bridge is all teen.
Once on the Bridge, the company encounters obstacle after obstacle, including a screeching red devil squid nest of eggs that splatters ink all over them and summons their mother! They next find Beanie's father's camp, and …right about here I'm going to stop, because if I say more, you might be able to put two and two together and figure out what's going on -- the bigger, evil machinations, I mean. I didn't see all the plot twists, just because the author's imagination is so fantastic, but you'll appreciate reading and discovering them all on your own.
Just know, it's a satisfying, imaginative end to this bit of the trilogy, and as is typical in middle grade, everything works out just fine in the end. Read and enjoy!