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From the The Firma Twins Adventures series

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

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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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An enthralling fantasy debut exploring exploitation by those in power.

Will 12-year-old Nura be able to outsmart the trickster jinn and save herself and her friends?

Nura lives in the fictional Pakistani town of Meerabagh, where she has worked mining mica to help support her family of five—her mother, herself, and her three younger siblings—since her father’s death. In the mines she has the company of her best friend, Faisal, who is teased by other kids for his stutter, and she enjoys small pleasures like splurging on gulab jamun. Although Maa wants Nura to stop working and attend school, she has no interest in classroom learning and hopes to save up to send her younger siblings to school instead so they can break the family’s cycle of poverty. Following a mining accident in which Faisal and others are lost in the rubble, Nura goes to the rescue. In her quest, she is plunged into the magical, glittering jinn realm, where nothing is as it seems. The author seamlessly weaves into the worldbuilding of the story commentary on real-life problems such as the ravages of child labor and systems that perpetuate inequities. An informative author’s note further explores present-day global cycles of oppression as well as the life-changing power of education. This action-packed story set in a Muslim community moves at a fast pace, with evocative writing that brings the fantasy world to life and lyrical imagery to describe emotions.

An enthralling fantasy debut exploring exploitation by those in power. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5795-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

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

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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