A long slog to the good parts. Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series for adults offers a similar premise (with dragons rather than...

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RAMPAGE AT WATERLOO

From the Battlesaurus series , Vol. 1

Falkner gives Napoleon a toothy secret weapon in this decidedly alternate history.

It seems that Europe’s surviving saurs are, with but rare exceptions, small and harmless. Not so the ravening monsters still extant in the mysterious Amerigo Islands across the sea—a circumstance that Bonaparte exploits upon his return from exile with a corps of dino-mounted cavalry that makes all the difference at Waterloo. Rather than exploit the melodramatic possibilities of this premise, though, the author chooses to bury them in a slowly developing adventure centering on Willem, a Flemish lad with a yen to be a stage magician like his vanished father and a knack for hypnotizing the local reptiles that also, it turns out, works on Napoleon’s beasts. The whole battle itself is confined to two localized scenes. Falkner cranks up the pace in the late going while adding such juicy bits as a hunt for a ring through piles of severed limbs and a climactic chase through Antwerp’s rousingly feculent sewers. Unfortunately, readers will first have to wade through eye-glazing accounts of Willem’s earlier years, changing relationships with neighbors and friends, and the patterns of Walloon village life with only occasional glimpses of a larger picture. The episode ends with Willem escaping to England beneath the triumphant Napoleon’s very nose in hopes that his secret can turn the tide.

A long slog to the good parts. Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series for adults offers a similar premise (with dragons rather than dinos) and quicker rewards. (Historical fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-30075-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles.

A MAP OF DAYS

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 4

The victory of Jacob and his fellow peculiars over the previous episode’s wights and hollowgasts turns out to be only one move in a larger game as Riggs (Tales of the Peculiar, 2016, etc.) shifts the scene to America.

Reading largely as a setup for a new (if not exactly original) story arc, the tale commences just after Jacob’s timely rescue from his decidedly hostile parents. Following aimless visits back to newly liberated Devil’s Acre and perfunctory normalling lessons for his magically talented friends, Jacob eventually sets out on a road trip to find and recruit Noor, a powerful but imperiled young peculiar of Asian Indian ancestry. Along the way he encounters a semilawless patchwork of peculiar gangs, syndicates, and isolated small communities—many at loggerheads, some in the midst of negotiating a tentative alliance with the Ymbryne Council, but all threatened by the shadowy Organization. The by-now-tangled skein of rivalries, romantic troubles, and family issues continues to ravel amid bursts of savage violence and low comedy (“I had never seen an invisible person throw up before,” Jacob writes, “and it was something I won’t soon forget”). A fresh set of found snapshots serves, as before, to add an eldritch atmosphere to each set of incidents. The cast defaults to white but includes several people of color with active roles.

Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles. (Horror/Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3214-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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