DRAGON KEEPER

In this award-winning but uneven import, a young slave, her pet rat and a very old dragon flee across the ancient empire of the Han. Fugitives from a remote Imperial Palace, Ping, furry Hua and frail Long Danzi, last of the Emperor’s captive dragons, set out for the ocean, carrying a “Dragon Stone” with which Danzi is strangely obsessed. Repeatedly getting each other out of scrapes along the way, Ping develops a great attachment to her terse, grumpy companion, while discovering within herself both latent magical powers and the resourcefulness to carry on when, at journey’s end, Danzi and Hua leave her alone. Not quite alone: readers will figure out long before she does what the Dragon Stone really is. Though Wilkinson barely sketches in the historical setting, and mishandles the plot—dropping one scary pursuer abruptly and setting up a climactic battle with another by having Danzi commit a seriously against-type betrayal—she throws an engrossing barrage of challenges and reversals of fortune at her trio of well-drawn travelers, and all three acquit themselves well. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-5581-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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THE BURNING BRIDGE

From the Ranger's Apprentice series , Vol. 2

More absorbing, straight-arrow adventures set in the medieval, alternate world kingdom of Araluen and featuring the three apprentices introduced in The Ruins of Gorlan (2005). As the brutish wargals of Morgorath, Lord of Rain and Night, gather for an invasion, deft young Will and his strapping friend Horace discover that Morgorath has planned a complex feint that, unless scotched, will spell doom for the armies of Araluen. The third apprentice, diplomat-in-training Alyss, is relegated to a subplot in this outing, but is sure to play larger roles in future episodes. Flanagan explains more than he needs to but propels the plot forward at a heady clip, stirring in live-wire characters who are still learning the finer points of their assigned professions but prove equal to each challenge they face. He also adds to the company a young fugitive who is far more than the lady’s maid she claims to be, and closes with the requisite battle, a breathtaking single combat—and a dismaying lead-in to the next episode. It all adds up to a winning formula that should prove out to a long, steady run for this above average series. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24455-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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