Every page is stunning, like coming across an atlas that covers the entire solar system.

A FRENCHMAN ON MARS

From the Castle in the Stars series , Vol. 4

Readers may wish this graphic novel were several times taller and wider.

Alice’s illustrations showcase some of the most glorious landmarks of the solar system, circa 1871, from a castle in Prussia to a crater on the moon and the caverns and canyons of Mars. Often, there are airships floating above them, shaped like enormous birds. Fans of the series might wish the pictures were the size of turn-of-the-20th-century broadsheets, like the Little Nemo comic strips, or posters they could hang on their walls. Even the most ardent fans, who’ve read the previous volumes again and again, may be baffled by the plot, which includes multiple political factions active in multiple parts of the galaxy. But the core of the story is simple enough to follow: There are good guys and bad guys, and they fight—sometimes with airships, sometimes with psychic powers. (No matter how many factions show up, almost all of the characters are white—even a Martian princess appears, at first, to be white and blond.) Like the first three volumes, this book ends with a cliffhanger, but it does resolve most of its major plot threads. It even ends with a kiss. More important, the last page is utterly filled with aircraft, with three balloons apiece. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.3-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 78% of actual size.)

Every page is stunning, like coming across an atlas that covers the entire solar system. (Graphic steampunk. 10-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20681-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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THE LIGHTNING THIEF

From the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series , Vol. 1

Edgar Award–winning Riordan leaves the adult world of mystery to begin a fantasy series for younger readers. Twelve-year-old Percy (full name, Perseus) Jackson has attended six schools in six years. Officially diagnosed with ADHD, his lack of self-control gets him in trouble again and again. What if it isn’t his fault? What if all the outrageous incidents that get him kicked out of school are the result of his being a “half-blood,” the product of a relationship between a human and a Greek god? Could it be true that his math teacher Mrs. Dodds transformed into a shriveled hag with bat wings, a Fury, and was trying to kill him? Did he really vanquish her with a pen that turned into a sword? One need not be an expert in Greek mythology to enjoy Percy’s journey to retrieve Zeus’s master bolt from the Underworld, but those who are familiar with the deities and demi-gods will have many an ah-ha moment. Along the way, Percy and his cohort run into Medusa, Cerberus and Pan, among others. The sardonic tone of the narrator’s voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty. (Fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-5629-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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