A busy if ultimately tidy wrap-up for fans.

WORLDS COLLIDE

From the Land of Stories series , Vol. 6

Witches and other fictional baddies move to conquer this world when a portal opens between the Land of Stories and a branch of the New York Public Library.

For the finale to his popular series, Colfer recaps the first five episodes, then brings together most of the teeming cast to wage, as the narrator admits, “an overdue battle of good versus evil.” Flanked by a wish-fulfilling frame story in which Conner, one of the white twin protagonists, has grown up to become a revered writer of middle-grade fantasies, the climactic struggle begins with the portal’s opening in the sumptuous Rose Reading Room. It spreads to Central Park and other locales as the then-teenager and allies fictional or otherwise (including a lot of ineffectual Marines) square off against his powerfully gifted sister, Alex, the dastardly witches who have ensorcelled her, and a Literary Army led by (among others) the head-chopping Queen of Hearts. Many set pieces ensue, from a pitched battle with gingerbread soldiers to no fewer than six individual witch-fairy duels in a row—not to mention gags and one-liners aplenty, topical references, and adolescent posturing (“Knock it off, boys,” Merlin snaps at one point, “there are much bigger issues in this story”). With one exception, characters who die bleed words instead of blood, and all of the destruction in both worlds is neatly fixed at the end by an albino dragon ( see Book 3: A Grimm Warning). Dorman’s vignettes at the chapter heads offer glimpses of settings and characters.

A busy if ultimately tidy wrap-up for fans. (foldout map of lower Manhattan) (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-35589-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2017

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat,...

EXILE

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 2

Full-blown middle-volume-itis leaves this continuation of the tale of a teenage elf who has been genetically modified for so-far undisclosed purposes dead in the water.

As the page count burgeons, significant plot developments slow to a trickle. Thirteen-year-old Sophie manifests yet more magical powers while going head-to-head with hostile members of the Lost Cities Council and her own adoptive elvin father, Grady, over whether the clandestine Black Swan cabal, her apparent creators and (in the previous episode) kidnappers, are allies or enemies. Messenger tries to lighten the tone by dressing Sophie and her classmates at the Hogwarts-ian Foxfire Academy as mastodons for a silly opening ceremony and by having her care for an alicorn—a winged unicorn so magnificent that even its poop sparkles. It’s not enough; two sad memorial services, a trip to a dreary underground prison, a rash of adult characters succumbing to mental breakdowns and a frequently weepy protagonist who is increasingly shunned as “the girl who was taken” give the tale a soggy texture. Also, despite several cryptic clues and a late attack by hooded figures, neither the identity nor the agenda of the Black Swan comes closer to being revealed.

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat, much less under way. (Fantasy 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4596-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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