Books by Cliff McNish

Released: April 1, 2011

Fifteen-year-old Savannah Grey discovers that she can bench press 725 pounds, outrun anyone in her school and has a mysterious growth in her throat that instills a killing power. At first Savannah is confused and frightened by her powers, but then she meets Reece, a boy with a similar condition of the larynx, who tells her who she is and what she's meant to do. Together the two wage a battle against a cadre of ill-named, Scooby-Doo-esque buffoons/beasts (the Horror! the Nyktomorph!) in order to save themselves and the world. McNish's latest is chock-full of clunky plotting, cheesy one-liners and hokey supernatural nuances. If teen readers can make it past the first chapter, in which a slobbering, toothy monster—aka The Horror—sneaks into Savannah's room to spy on her, without laughing out loud, then they might make it far enough to discover the back story behind these foolish monsters. The tale struggles with audience: While the theme and the action sequences seem to suggest that the work is written for teens, the tone, dialogue and descriptive passages lack edge and read as if they were written for middle graders. The supernatural theme could pique the interests of reluctant readers, but they really deserve more than this work could ever offer. (Horror. 12 & up)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2005

The author of the Doomspell trilogy lays out a new storyline, this one set in a miles-long garbage dump and featuring six ordinary children who suddenly find themselves changing or acquiring eldritch powers. Drawn by a strange compulsion, the six meet in the gang-haunted wasteland of Coldharbour, frequently confused or frightened by their new abilities: Helen, for instance, has become a telepath; Walter, a 12-foot tall giant; and Thomas can project an indefinable force he dubs "beauty." Oddest of all, though, is Milo, whose human skin and form are sloughing off, as he lies in agonized semi-consciousness, to reveal a silver-skinned being. By the end of this episode, the children have clashed and bonded, received an inkling of their mission in Helen's visions of a huge, insatiable interstellar Elemental snaking Earthward, and seen Milo undergo a final, titanic, trendy transformation that sends him winging into the sky. A strong opening despite the latter—longer on imagination than action, but that could well change in future installments. (Fantasy. 11-13)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2001

A monumental battle of good versus evil pits children against an ancient witch outcast from earth. Rachel and her brother Eric are literally pulled amid wind and darkness into this world by the monstrous claws of a black creature. The evil witch, Dragwena, recognizes Rachel's unusual power, begins her tutelage, and attempts to make Rachel her accomplice in revenge for her expulsion from earth centuries ago. All the inhabitants on the planet are in the thrall of Dragwena, yet some have gathered together to be ready for the child-hope prophesied. The evil is the stuff of nightmares; red-eyed wolves, worms that cling, crows with baby heads, and especially Dragwena, who has a snake for a necklace, tattooed green eyes that can meet at the back of her head, and four jaws of teeth that produce spiders instead of spit. McNish creates a surprisingly coherent fantasy world that still has multiple magical transformations on practically every page. Not for the fainthearted: heads are chopped off, spiders are eaten, blood turns yellow, ears are torn, and there is no attempt to soften or keep the battle offstage. The magic here is vivid and the underlying themes sufficiently subtle, yet curiously, it is hard to be truly engaged. The world of Ithrea is splashy and busy like a movie full of special effects that forgets the humanity of its characters. The nonstop action is a big asset for this, but it allows no time to become attached to the characters or empathize with the downtrodden. An opportunity for a sequel is provided at the end—an attractive option for those who care more for pyrotechnics than characters. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >