A somewhat gangly YA tale that has definite appeal but doesn’t fully grow into its heritage.

Miles Arthur and the Quest for the King's Scabbard

Zyburo’s debut novel is a modern-day retelling of the Arthurian myth for a YA audience.

Miles Arthur is a scrappy foster kid who’s routinely used as a punching bag by his foster brother, Kay. Aside from that, though, his home life is about as close to paradise as it can get. He lives on a massive estate with a live-in maid and attends an exclusive private school. However, things start to change for Miles on the day of the state fair. He finally bests Kay in a fencing match; the girl he likes, Gwen, agrees to hang out with him; and he even wins a test-of-strength carnival game shaped like a sword in an anvil. Then things start to get weird: a crazy old man tells him that he’s Merlin, that Miles is King Arthur reincarnated, and that Gwen is Guinevere. He also informs Miles that unless he can find and retrieve the scabbard of the sword Excalibur within the next two weeks, Miles’ foster father will die. Miles must deal with this high-stakes quest on top of school, homework, skirmishes with his brother, and football practice while also trying not to embarrass himself in front of Gwen. Zyburo ably depicts the heightened reality of an overwhelmingly stressful young-adult life. The story also digs deeper into the Arthurian legend than many other derivative works do, which is commendable. However, it’s not a perfect melding; more often than not, the elements taken from the Arthur legend seem like stage dressing or a video-game skin. As a result, the feel of authentic Arthurian romance is frequently lost amid the background noise of the modern setting and contemporary teen dialogue. The quest element is fun, moves at a good pace, and keeps the plot churning, but it doesn’t quite make the story reach the heights of authentic Arthurian drama.

A somewhat gangly YA tale that has definite appeal but doesn’t fully grow into its heritage.

Pub Date: April 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-942922-09-4

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Wee Creek Press

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2016

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An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and...

White Tiger Legend

Set presumably in 12th-century China, an action-packed YA read about a young Shaolin monk named Zi who embarks on a harrowing journey of self-discovery after his temple and everything he ever knew are destroyed.

With the Gathering of the Ways quickly approaching, the entire population of the famed Shaolin Temple is frenetically preparing for the annual gathering of elite warriors from distant kingdoms who come together to test their abilities against the temple’s best kung fu practitioners. But when a cunning, morally bankrupt fighter known as the Red Dragon defeats the temple’s champion (who happens to be Zi’s older brother, Hu Yuan) and razes the temple in search of its mystical secrets, young Zi is forced to begin the Great Journey—essentially a treacherous quest of enlightenment that may ultimately reveal the greatest secret of the temple. On the quest, Zi meets and befriends a diversity of characters (like Bok Choi the grasshopper and a mysterious lady of the river named Auntie) who not only help the young Buddhist monk survive, but offer him wise advice as well. While the character of Zi is undeniably endearing, as is his insect sidekick, the story isn’t without minor flaws. The text is littered with grammatical errors (“Well stand down soldier. Watch how a ladies mantis goes about getting the goods son”), some of the fight scenes drag and become monotonous, and at points, the metaphysical nature of kung fu arguably goes too deep for the average reader (the sequence where the author connects chakras with the digestion of various foods, for example).

An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and spiritual philosophical undertones.

Pub Date: July 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9929738-0-3

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Kory Juul Enterprises Corp

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015

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A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

The Lie They Told


When a teenage girl in 1925 Chicago kills her violent stepfather, her mother takes the blame in this YA novel.

Carola Pawlak, 15, living in Chicago’s Polish Town, is shy, studious, and badly dressed, although other girls sometimes say her looks are “promising.” She dreams of becoming a writer and has few friends other than Stan Carlson, a handsome Roma boy. She and her sweet mother, Maria, walk on eggshells around Carola’s angry, explosive stepfather, Henry Jaworski. That is, until a fight one day in which Carola, trying to protect her mother, strikes back. He attempts to destroy a prized silver amulet that Stan gave her—but it has a hidden knife, and Carola plunges it into Henry’s chest. Maria confesses to the crime, forcing a promise from Carola to go along, and is arrested. Unexpected help then arrives: Louise Lazaar, “the Chicago Tribune’s leading ‘sob sister.’ ” Sensing a story, Lazaar brings Carola to see T.J. O’Malley, Chicago’s best criminal lawyer, who takes her mother’s case. Carola gets a makeover—bobbed hair, cosmetics, new clothes—and Lazaar dubs her and Maria the “Mother-Daughter Angels,” writing stories such as, “‘She Did It for Me,’ Says Angel Daughter.” But Maria’s still in danger from other prisoners, and Carola learns that Stan’s in trouble for giving her the mysterious amulet. Arbeiter (A Mouton Coat: The Hunt for a Mother’s Story, 2013, etc.) offers a sympathetic YA heroine who’s also conventional in that she doesn’t feel beautiful but is, and she wants to be a writer. Her romance with Stan is sweet and provides a little heat, and Carola has a chance to play the rescuer instead of the rescuee, which is unusual in the YA genre. The 1920s setting is also vivid; Arbeiter gives a well-rounded sense of the era’s highlights, such as flappers and actor Rudolph Valentino, and challenges, such as crime and injustice.

A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

Pub Date: June 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-938812-59-0

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Full Court Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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