An amusing series of vivid adventures, if a little slapdash.

ARMERA

A FANTASY

Two unlikely companions search for a kidnapped wizard in this children’s fantasy novel.

The land of Armera is orbited by the moons of Vesti, colonized long ago by wizards escaping the planet’s terrible wars. Armera survived these conflicts, and benevolent wizards have returned to the planet, forming a Wizards Council to broker relations between the two civilizations. But now, DeMartize—Vesti’s greatest wizard—has been kidnapped by the evil twins Kal and Sak, and the colony blames the council. With war threatening, the high wizard Mernes the Mad brings together his 14-year-old apprentice, Peterzik, and Cedric, a 14-year-old “hero rescuer and thief,” for the job of saving DeMartize. Peterzik’s knowledge and Cedric’s accomplished thievery make them the perfect pair. Guided by a vision from the council, the two set out on their long and dangerous journey across challenging terrain. They’re beset by many daunting creatures to fight, negotiate with, or trick to get past; these include the Snow King, a fire dragon, a water monster, and a kingdom of bats. And the duo will still have to defeat the powerful and wicked twins, hoping to rescue DeMartize before war is declared. Meccarello-Gerson has written several cozy mysteries. This book is her first fantasy novel, also rather cozy. Encounters are generally resolved without violence, and the story has a soft heart for animals. It’s a lighthearted and funny approach to the genre, as when Cedric appeases the Snow King—who appreciates the finer things in life—with haute cuisine (vanilla fudge ice cream). But grammatical errors, including sentence fragments (“Slipping to the ground and resting his back against the old friendly oak’s trunk and decided to take a nap”); clumsy narration (“His necromancy of instantly blast freezing became part of his building process”); and overly casual phrasing (“Enough on the dragon subject and let’s get back to Cedric”) make the novel feel hastily composed. Even the work’s map appears to have been drawn on a napkin.

An amusing series of vivid adventures, if a little slapdash.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2021

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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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Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

THEY THREW US AWAY

From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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