Another empty-caloried thriller, thinly sauced with superficial psychology and earnest professions of generic faith.

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HOSTAGE RUN

From the MindWar Trilogy series , Vol. 2

The desperate MindWar enters a new phase when evil mastermind Kurodar breaks through the boundary between his digital Realm and Real Life in this cranked-up middle volume.

The plot is wholesale nonsense, manufactured to carry set piece chases, battles and angst-y ruminations. Scheming to obliterate Washington, Kurodar has opened a Breach, created a giant digital WarCraft and also hacked into a fleet of weaponized drones. Hoping to keep his nemesis, teen gamer/athlete Rick Dial, out of the Realm, he also kidnaps Rick’s closest friend, Molly. This doesn’t work, of course. Rick charges off into the Realm once again to take on digital monsters from vampiric wraiths to a multitentacled Octo-Guardian, blast multiple drones into ones and zeros, and then, in a magical (certainly not science-based) transformation, zoom through the Breach to bail Molly out. Meanwhile, he frets over tangled feelings about Molly, other women and his own recently reappeared father, ultimately giving himself over to God and graduating, as his mother puts it, from “boy faith” to “man faith.” Molly too is strong in faith and body both; though she ultimately needs male rescue, she still single-handedly destroys many of the drones and even guns down a thug. A thoroughly cheap cliffhanger sets up the closer.

Another empty-caloried thriller, thinly sauced with superficial psychology and earnest professions of generic faith. (Science fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4016-8895-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts...

THE ENCHANTRESS

From the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series , Vol. 5

Scott tops off his deservedly popular series with a heaping shovelful of monster attacks, heroic last stands, earthquakes and other geological events, magic-working, millennia-long schemes coming to fruition, hearts laid bare, family revelations, transformations, redemptions and happy endings (for those deserving them).

Multiple plotlines—some of which, thanks to time travel, feature the same characters and even figures killed off in previous episodes—come to simultaneous heads in a whirl of short chapters. Flamel and allies (including Prometheus and Billy the Kid) defend modern San Francisco from a motley host of mythological baddies. Meanwhile, in ancient Danu Talis (aka Atlantis), Josh and Sophie are being swept into a play to bring certain Elders to power as the city’s downtrodden “humani” population rises up behind Virginia Dare, the repentant John Dee and other Immortals and Elders. The cast never seems unwieldy despite its size, the pacing never lets up, and the individual set pieces are fine mixtures of sudden action, heroic badinage and cliffhanger cutoffs. As a whole, though, the tale collapses under its own weight as the San Francisco subplots turn out to be no more than an irrelevant sideshow, and climactic conflicts take place on an island that is somehow both a historical, physical place and a higher reality from which Earth and other “shadowrealms” are spun off.

Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts rather than a cohesive whole. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73535-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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