This endearingly strange tale with entertaining SF elements highlights the value of different viewpoints.



From the The Firma Twins Adventures series

In this middle-grade adventure, a half-alien twin ends up surrounded by bloodthirsty creatures while searching for a powerful artifact.

Electra and Isis Firma are half-human and half-Squrlon, an alien race that has secretly lived on Earth for 10,000 years. The 12-year-old twin sisters play special roles in the battle against the Vympyrym, an alien race of giant, blood-drinking rats. Isis is the Wielder of the Purple Staff of Death, and Electra is the Recorder, who wears the Cliosape talisman to help focus while shape-shifting. Electra also happens to be an excellent ice skater and hopes to begin training for the Olympics in a few years. But her father explains that displaying her skills to the world would betray her alien origin, upsetting their secret lives in Arlington, Virginia. Before their parents head to Charlottesville for a weekend wedding, the twins see an alarming news segment. A reporter is interviewing a Vympyrym that looks like their vanquished foe, Dr. Dearth. Yet this Dearth doppelgänger is simply from RatCon, a nearby convention dedicated to Vympyrym culture. Granddad, a former Wielder, shows the twins a secret passage between their home and the Ballston Metro station. On their way to investigate the Ratropolis Suites, the twins encounter three Native Americans performing music on the subway. One man with a flute says, “Remember the tune.” When Electra shape-shifts into a Vympyrym, she descends into the unnerving realm of the giant rats. She searches for the potent Flute of Enchantment, which can defeat the Vympyrym, and learns something shocking about the two alien races on Earth.

Timpko’s sequel treats middle-grade audiences to a veritable cascade of rodent puns and worldbuilding wackiness. The author’s love of mock-Dickensian names is evident with creations like Scabfellow Crumblord and Pricklethorn Ratbait. The latter is a Vympyrym who teaches Electra, who’s disguised as Matricidea Groundling, the ropes—no matter how suspicious the tween’s lack of rat knowledge may be. Adults who have attended SF conventions will recognize the broad parody presented by the plot, as Timpko details author readings and dealers’ rooms. The more audiences know about Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the better they’ll appreciate notions like the “phleb,” the part of a blood-offering familiar played by Electra’s best friend, Kelly Horton. Younger readers will also learn about mnemonic devices, as a diary by the twins’ Uncle Marcus details elaborate shape-shifting methods featuring “SHOKIDDE” (Sight, Hearing, Observation, Knowledge, Imagination, Dexterity, Decisiveness, and Empathy). While the hunt for the flute is always simmering, the author’s free-wheeling inventiveness remains at the forefront. Sometimes this delivers low-hanging fruit, like the idea that Adolph Ratler was the true villain of World War II; other jokes are more inspired, such as “What do you get when you mix a human with a Vympyrym?” (“A mouthful!”) When Electra learns that the Squrlon and the Vympyrym are fundamentally connected, Timpko points to the skills that help the girl shape-shift. Understanding someone who’s considered the enemy does indeed require imagination and empathy. Though this volume stars Electra, and the prior book Isis, the next installment should give them equal billing.

This endearingly strange tale with entertaining SF elements highlights the value of different viewpoints.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9860882-9-2

Page Count: 268

Publisher: Gettier Group, LLC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.


Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.


From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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