A robust debut, well stocked with heroic exploits, monsters, pirates, explosions, magical transformations, and life-changing...

THE VOYAGE TO MAGICAL NORTH

For two young fugitives, being captured by pirates is only the first step in an epic quest for a fabled trove of gold and magic.

Hardly have inept apprentice magician Peter Magus, a white boy, and Brine Seaborne, a dark-skinned lass of 12 with an allergy to magic and no memory of her origins, fled a wicked master than they are picked up by legendary freebooter Cassie O’Pia, charismatic white captain of the equally renowned vessel Onion. Under the guidance of a scary but (supposedly) captive wizard, sails are set for the Magical North, where a massive concentration of starshell—corrosive but invaluable as the source of all magical power—is said to lie hidden amid mounds of treasure. Along with conceiving delicious hazards to overcome along the way, ranging from an island of misanthropic librarians to flocks of cute penguins with piranhalike habits, Fayers shows a bright if underused gift for comic description (one character sports “a face like a fish on a bad day”). She also surrounds her two high-friction protagonists with a vivid if not particularly diverse supporting cast featuring a decidedly atypical pirate captain and, for once, a boy disguised as a girl instead of the other way round.

A robust debut, well stocked with heroic exploits, monsters, pirates, explosions, magical transformations, and life-changing adventures, and a promising series starter. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-420-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure

THE GOOD THIEVES

A Prohibition-era child enlists a gifted pickpocket and a pair of budding circus performers in a clever ruse to save her ancestral home from being stolen by developers.

Rundell sets her iron-jawed protagonist on a seemingly impossible quest: to break into the ramshackle Hudson River castle from which her grieving grandfather has been abruptly evicted by unscrupulous con man Victor Sorrotore and recover a fabulously valuable hidden emerald. Laying out an elaborate scheme in a notebook that itself turns out to be an integral part of the ensuing caper, Vita, only slowed by a bout with polio years before, enlists a team of helpers. Silk, a light-fingered orphan, aspiring aerialist Samuel Kawadza, and Arkady, a Russian lad with a remarkable affinity for and with animals, all join her in a series of expeditions, mostly nocturnal, through and under Manhattan. The city never comes to life the way the human characters do (Vita, for instance, “had six kinds of smile, and five of them were real”) but often does have a tangible presence, and notwithstanding Vita’s encounter with a (rather anachronistically styled) “Latina” librarian, period attitudes toward race and class are convincingly drawn. Vita, Silk, and Arkady all present white; Samuel, a Shona immigrant from Southern Rhodesia, is the only primary character of color. Santoso’s vignettes of, mostly, animals and small items add occasional visual grace notes.

Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure . (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1948-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace.

WAR STORIES

Two young people of different generations get profound lessons in the tragic, enduring legacy of war.

Raised on the thrilling yarns of his great-grandpa Jacob and obsessed with both World War II and first-person–shooter video games, Trevor is eager to join the 93-year-old vet when he is invited to revisit the French town his unit had helped to liberate. In alternating chapters, the overseas trip retraces the parallel journeys of two young people—Trevor, 12, and Jacob, in 1944, just five years older—with similarly idealized visions of what war is like as they travel both then and now from Fort Benning to Omaha Beach and then through Normandy. Jacob’s wartime experiences are an absorbing whirl of hard fighting, sudden death, and courageous acts spurred by necessity…but the modern trip turns suspenseful too, as mysterious stalkers leave unsettling tokens and a series of hostile online posts that hint that Jacob doesn’t have just German blood on his hands. Korman acknowledges the widely held view of World War II as a just war but makes his own sympathies plain by repeatedly pointing to the unavoidable price of conflict: “Wars may have winning sides, but everybody loses.” Readers anticipating a heavy-handed moral will appreciate that Trevor arrives at a refreshingly realistic appreciation of video games’ pleasures and limitations. As his dad puts it: “War makes a better video game….But if you’re looking for a way to live, I’ll take peace every time.”

This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace. (Fiction/historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-29020-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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