A twisty tale with an otherworldly setting that readers will happily revisit.

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ABOVE THE STAR

THE 8TH ISLAND TRILOGY

In this launch of Chute’s (Expecting Sunshine, 2017) fantasy trilogy, a family travels to a bizarre and dangerous parallel world.

Fourteen-year-old Ella Wellsley was only 10 when doctors found a brain tumor at the base of her skull. Six months ago, the growing tumor rendered her incapable of speech. Now, her grandfather Archie has brought Ella and her mom, Tessa, on a vacation cruise through Spain’s Canary Islands. Tessa is still angry at Ella’s father, Arden, who packed some belongings and disappeared two years ago. It turns out that Archie has a hidden agenda with this trip: He hopes to find both his son and a cure for Ella by using information in Arden’s notebooks. Archie tries to make a deal with a yellow-eyed, untrustworthy being named Zeno, but it doesn’t go as expected, and the entire cruise ship is sent through a portal to the magical island of Jarr-Wya. The quest for Ella’s cure temporarily takes a back seat as the Wellsleys and others get mixed up in a conflict between the sandlike Millia; the red, sometimes-fiery Olearon; and the Bangols, who’d banished Zeno, one of their own, to Earth. When the Bangols take Ella captive, Tessa and Archie summon their strength—and a few allies—to bring her home. The characters in Chute’s story exhibit as many virtues as they do flaws; even Tessa and Archie are occasionally selfish despite their noble intentions. This precipitates numerous plot turns as characters surprise one another with a good deed or a sinister turn. Ella provides the voice of the novel with her periodic first-person perspective, and her varying forms of communication—miming, drawing in a sketchbook—make her the most memorable character. Chute details the beauty of Jarr-Wya as well as grotesque moments; at one point, film from Tessa’s eyes “wriggles on her fingers like hyper slugs.” The author’s literary proficiency is complemented by her illustrations. Although the images are supposed to be Ella’s crude ink paintings, their solid shading gives them vibrancy, even in black and white.

A twisty tale with an otherworldly setting that readers will happily revisit.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-943006-56-4

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Spark Press

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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