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From the Reckoners series , Vol. 3

Adeptly done thrills, whether readers take their costumed supers seriously or with a dish (or, in this case, an entire city)...

Climactic battles with the most powerful of the supervillainous Epics plaguing our planet leads to a win at last for truth, justice, and, well, second chances.

Once-worthy Epic Jonathan Phaedrus has been corrupted by his powers but might still be redeemable if he can be made to face his deepest fears. In pursuit of his former boss, Reckoner David “Steelslayer” Charleston and his diverse crew of Epic-killers fetch up in Ildithia—formerly known as Atlanta but now, thanks to the powers of its resident Epics, located in Kansas and transformed into salt. A whirl of raids, chases, rescues, and spectacularly destructive displays of both magic and high-tech gadgetry ensues, bringing David face to face with Calamity: the original Epic and the source of the other Epics’ powers. As said individual powers range from transformational skills and energy blasts to the ability to force victims to talk in rhyme, the threat doesn’t always seem entirely serious despite a rapidly escalating body count. Moreover, narrator David seems as addicted to eye-rolling similes (“The sun peeked over the horizon like the head of a giant radioactive manatee”) as he is to “exceptionally dangerous” mission plans. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the key to victory in this action-packed romp turns out not to be violence but pop psychology.

Adeptly done thrills, whether readers take their costumed supers seriously or with a dish (or, in this case, an entire city) of salt . (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-74360-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Characteristically provocative gothic comedy, with sublime undertones. (Autobiographical fiction. 11-13)

An exhilarating summer marked by death, gore and fire sparks deep thoughts in a small-town lad not uncoincidentally named “Jack Gantos.”

The gore is all Jack’s, which to his continuing embarrassment “would spray out of my nose holes like dragon flames” whenever anything exciting or upsetting happens. And that would be on every other page, seemingly, as even though Jack’s feuding parents unite to ground him for the summer after several mishaps, he does get out. He mixes with the undertaker’s daughter, a band of Hell’s Angels out to exact fiery revenge for a member flattened in town by a truck and, especially, with arthritic neighbor Miss Volker, for whom he furnishes the “hired hands” that transcribe what becomes a series of impassioned obituaries for the local paper as elderly town residents suddenly begin passing on in rapid succession. Eventually the unusual body count draws the—justified, as it turns out—attention of the police. Ultimately, the obits and the many Landmark Books that Jack reads (this is 1962) in his hours of confinement all combine in his head to broaden his perspective about both history in general and the slow decline his own town is experiencing.

Characteristically provocative gothic comedy, with sublime undertones. (Autobiographical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-37993-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

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

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 26, 2019

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