From the Five Kingdoms series , Vol. 2

A flaccid, phoned-in sequel.

In this second series installment, young Cole enters the second of five kingdoms in the otherworldly Outskirts, is exposed to a second culture and a second flavor of magic, and battles a second monster made of stolen magic as he continues the search for his fellow earthly kidnappees.

In Elloweer, Cole’s flying sword and other magical items acquired in the previous kingdom (Sky Raiders, 2014) don’t work, but gifted illusionists can create disguises and other seemings. With help from a swelling corps of allies old and new, Cole rescues captive buddy Dalton, participates in a Maze Runner–style game to help Mira rescue one of her royal sisters, and gears up to stop Morgassa, a maddened shapecrafter out to magically possess everyone in the kingdom. In a repetitive round of captures and escapes before the climax, he also runs into the slavers who snatched him and his friends from Arizona, the pigheadedly noble titular knight (who is also using borrowed magic, though he eventually returns it) and an enigmatic godlike illusionist from yet another plane of reality. Sprinkling his wordy, aimless plot with stingier-than-usual bits of banter and silliness, Mull eventually nudges his protagonists into a hard-fought victory, then sends them off to the next kingdom, captive, sister and, more than likely, monster. One can hardly wait.

A flaccid, phoned-in sequel. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9703-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012


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

Close Quickview