Too many plot twists, arch narrative asides, and last-minute fortune reversals make this adventure plod.

THE FANTASTICAL EXPLOITS OF GWENDOLYN GRAY

From the Gwendolyn Gray series , Vol. 2

Gwendolyn travels through a library of tropes and narrative conventions to fight world-controlling villains.

Gwendolyn Gray, whose vermilion hair stands out in a world where most folks are blond, is dissatisfied with her City. At the end of series opener The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray (2018), when she traveled into a fictional world of airship pirates, she’d destroyed the mind-controlling Lambents that kept her City docile. And yet, even without the mind control, the City is still a toxic place full of conformity. It’s almost a relief when the Faceless Gentlemen reappear and chase Gwendolyn back into magical worlds. This time, she ends up in Faeoria, where Titania and Oberon reign, and a human “inventress” with clockwork wings takes Gwendolyn under them. To save herself and her City from various wicked forces, Gwendolyn must control her depression, mania, and anxiety. (These are mostly portrayed as a “sickness of the spirit” she must learn to manage as normal mental illness, but they are tied uncomfortably into magic and metaphor as well). The inventress protects Gwendolyn through a series of magical training montages, then sends her out into the (overwhelmingly white) multiverse to fight the baddies. A smart-alecky narrator breaks the fourth wall like a wrecking ball, with frequent metafictional asides and unobtrusive fixation on the age of the 13-year-old protagonist.

Too many plot twists, arch narrative asides, and last-minute fortune reversals make this adventure plod. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63163-435-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Jolly Fish Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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This can’t be the last we ever hear of the Legendary Alston Boys of the purely surreal Logan County—imaginative,...

THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER

From the Legendary Alston Boys series , Vol. 1

Can this really be the first time readers meet the Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County? Cousins and veteran sleuths Otto and Sheed Alston show us that we are the ones who are late to their greatness.

These two black boys are coming to terms with the end of their brave, heroic summer at Grandma’s, with a return to school just right around the corner. They’ve already got two keys to the city, but the rival Epic Ellisons—twin sisters Wiki and Leen—are steadily gaining celebrity across Logan County, Virginia, and have in hand their third key to the city. No way summer can end like this! These young people are powerful, courageous, experienced adventurers molded through their heroic commitment to discipline and deduction. They’ve got their shared, lifesaving maneuvers committed to memory (printed in a helpful appendix) and ready to save any day. Save the day they must, as a mysterious, bendy gentleman and an oversized, clingy platypus have been unleashed on the city of Fry, and all the residents and their belongings seem to be frozen in time and place. Will they be able to solve this one? With total mastery, Giles creates in Logan County an exuberant vortex of weirdness, where the commonplace sits cheek by jowl with the utterly fantastic, and populates it with memorable characters who more than live up to their setting.

This can’t be the last we ever hear of the Legendary Alston Boys of the purely surreal Logan County—imaginative, thrill-seeking readers, this is a series to look out for. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-46083-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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