A fast-paced fantasy epic that will appeal to younger fans of anime and manga.

Steve Brown and his Seven Secrets

Bhattacharrya’s debut epic fantasy features a boy destined to change the world, talking butterflies, Buddhist monks, ancient secrets, and a strong manga aesthetic in both his prose descriptions and illustrations.

Steve Brown has grown up in an orphanage, slaving away for the abusive Mr. Arnold until a strange series of circumstances sends him across the world to a Buddhist monastery deep in the Himalayas. There, Steve discovers new friends and mentors, like the talking butterfly, Pinkoo; the smiling apprentice monk, Cheeka; and the monastery’s grand master, Shom. He also discovers new enemies, perhaps the most terrifying of whom is Koraka, a scenery-chewing, Satan-worshipping, baby-sacrificing madman. Koraka seeks seven mystical secrets—six of which, via magical paintings, are guarded by the monastery—that, when combined with Steve’s burgeoning abilities, will give him unlimited access to all the power our sun possesses. It’s up to Steve and his new friends to save these seven secrets and, with them, the world. The plot is an archetypal one, and though details of the villains, the unusual locale and the protagonist’s special powers add some freshness, they’re not enough to make this a truly unique story. Most of the characters lack depth, more often than not coming across as simple stock characters rather than real people. The dialogue also ranges from pleasingly cheesy to downright clunky. Steve, for example, is told that these things are happening to him “because only you have the amazing Rainbow power.” The story moves along at a nice pace, however, and the imaginative battle scenes pack a punch. The scattered black-and-white illustrations, also by Bhattacharrya, enhance the story, especially the action sequences.

A fast-paced fantasy epic that will appeal to younger fans of anime and manga.

Pub Date: June 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4905-2116-9

Page Count: 246

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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THE LAST BOOK IN THE UNIVERSE

In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

BEHIND THE BLUE

A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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