Although the story could stand alone, I would recommend reading The Magic Warble first. This story in the Black Shard takes place three years later when the main character, Kristina, is 15.
At a summer horse camp with her two nemeses, Davina and Hester, a fall from a horse sends Kristena tumbling down a slope and back to Bernovem, the land of talking animals, fairies, dwarfs, gnomes and the handsome teenage prince, Werrien, on whom she had a crush when she was 12 and he was 14. He, too, is now older; he's 17 and even more handsome than she remembered.
Kristina would be happy to be reunited with Werrien, but for the fact that Davina and Hester are also in Bernovem. Prince Werrien invites the three of them to sail to his homeland Tezerel, and the real adventure begins. Of course, their are complications: an evil Queen, a magical stone (the black shard), a deadly plague, a haunting old hag, and characters who are not what they seem.
Once again, I was drawn into the story and captivated by the fantasy world that Simcox weaves. The story is exciting and enthralling. And there is just a little romance. Kristina's strength and endurance are put to the test and when the story ended, I wanted more! And the door is definitely left open for the next book!
Both books are available through Amazon by clicking on the links above or below, and both would make excellent Christmas gifts for the young readers on your list! I gave The Magic Warble to my 10 year old grandson last year, and when I told him I had the sequel a few days ago, he asked if he could have it after I finished with it; what more of an endorsement could you ask for than that!