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From the Septimus Heap series , Vol. 7

A disorganized but amiable farewell—with hints of a spinoff series in the works.

To wrap up her deservedly popular series, Sage calls back nearly all of the first six volumes’ cast members, living and dead, for a fresh flurry of Magykal feats and threats from the Darke.

It’s more of a grand parade than a concerted rush to the finish. Princess Jenna’s coronation approaches; alchemist Marcellus Pye has secretly rekindled a massive Fyre deep beneath the sprawling Castle; two powerful Darke wizards have escaped and are bent on revenge after centuries of imprisonment. These events all set off an extended whirl of journeys, narrowly averted disasters and frantic searches for missing people or spells against a backdrop of reunions, encounters with ghosts, humorous or romantic (or both) set pieces, and characters settling in to their adult roles and domestic situations. Preceded by a tardy flashback to the origin of the evil Two-Faced Ring (introduced back in Volume 4, Queste, 2008), the string of crises major and minor serves as much to get everyone on stage, at least briefly, as to advance the plot. Nor is the outcome ever really in doubt, as the author shepherds her ensemble to an ultimate settling of both ancient feuds and all the major characters’ futures amid a wash of bonhomie so relentless that one character actually intones “All will be well in the best of all possible worlds.”

A disorganized but amiable farewell—with hints of a spinoff series in the works. (map, finely detailed character studies at chapter heads) (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-124245-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2013

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

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

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. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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