OUTCAST

Proof positive that a well-imagined setting and a promising premise can’t survive amateurish writing. Being the only human in his entire world who cannot work magic, young Timothy Cade might seem to have a devastating handicap—except that he’s not only a combination of Leonardo, Thomas Edison, and Bruce Lee, but also utterly immune to any magic attack or spell. He is, therefore, well equipped to take on evil archmage Nicodemus, who’s out to take over the Parliament of Mages for his supposedly dead master. To follow Timothy’s adventures, however, readers will have to plow through ten pages of prefatory non-action before even meeting him, and thereafter be continually assaulted by awkward language (“A ripple of mutterings went around the room”), wooden dialogue (“It would not at all surprise me to see the youth used for ill gain”), and slo-mo battles in which participants find time to deliver threats or instructions. Wordy, contrived, amateurish work—and, naturally, first in a projected series. Skip it. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-86661-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2004

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THE NIGHT DANCE

Weak writing ruins a nicely structured integration of Arthurian legend with a Grimm’s fairy tale. Rowena’s locked up with her 11 sisters because her father’s afraid that they’ll disappear like their mother, Vivienne, the Lady of the Lake. Each night they disappear underground, where dancing destroys their elegant slippers. Elsewhere, Sir Bedivere promises a dying King Arthur to return Excalibur to Vivienne. Bedivere and Rowena share reciprocal mystical visions in which they fall in love. The sisters’ nightly dancing, as well as their goal of finding their lost mother, leads to the same enchanted underground lake as Bedivere’s task of honor. Details of “Twelve Dancing Princesses” are skillfully woven in with the Camelot plot; however, the text is cluttered with modifiers, the narration is unsubtle and trite and the workings of magic are shallow. Instead, see Vivian Vande Velde’s Book of Mordred (July 2005) and Dia Calhoun’s Phoenix Dance (October 2005). (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-4169-0579-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2005

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Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the...

DEADLY PINK

Vande Velde again traps teenagers inside an authentically depicted arcade game—but here she works twists into the premise that are both amusing and crank up the danger.

As in User Unfriendly (1991) and Heir Apparent (2002), the game, called “The Land of Golden Butterflies,” is manufactured by the shadowy Rasmussem Corp. and is fully immersive, fed directly into the brain through electrodes. Into this game 14-year-old Grace Pizzelli’s big sister Emily has gone; moreover, she has refused to come out and altered the code so she can’t be forcibly ejected. As sessions that run longer than a few hours cause brain damage and death, the corporation desperately turns to Grace to follow Emily in and persuade her to leave. Reluctantly agreeing, Grace discovers to her disgust that, rather than offering the usual heroic-fantasy or science-fiction setting, this digital world has been colored in pinks and lavenders. It is stocked with (supposedly) benign magical creatures and hunky male servitors—in general, it seems designed to cater to 10-year-old would-be princesses. The idyll has gone sour, though, because thanks to Emily’s fiddling, not only have the wish-granting sprites turned nasty, but the game’s governing Artificial Intelligence has changed the Rules—disabling the “Quit” function and forcing both Grace and her already-failing sister to embark on a seemingly hopeless quest with their real lives at stake.

Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73850-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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