Satisfying action and adventure.

Arboregal, the Lorn Tree

Four young Americans attempt to uncover a prophecy as they search for a way home after being transported to a fantastic world similar to our own.

Twelve-year-old Michelle spends the summer with her grandparents in Transylvania, where a gypsy makes a frightening prophecy about her life and death. Michelle doesn’t understand it at the time, but when she returns to California she and her sister, Melissa, are propelled into an unforeseen adventure with their neighbors, brothers Perry and Nathan. In one of the adventure’s many moments of great magical tension, the brothers find a spell book, but their attempt to use it only teleports and strands the four in a foreign desert. The children make their way toward an enormous tree—the Lorn Tree—so large that houses are built on its branches. To their amazement, and in an impressively imaginative setup, the children discover that this is where the desert people live; one of the resident families adopts the children and teaches them about their new surroundings. The kids are eager to learn and to impart their Earth wisdom on their new Lorn friends, and though some chapters lengthily recap Lorn’s history, the characters’ energy makes it easy to root for them. At a festival one night, a fortune-teller recognizes that Michelle is the “Girl with the Golden Hair” who is prophesied to battle to the death with Hellferata, an evil spirit descended from the Greek witch Medusa. Unfortunately, Hellferata also realizes Michelle is a danger, so she sends her son, Dracu Mort, to kill Michelle and vanquish the prophecy. However, since this novel turns out to be continued in another volume, the two large questions (Will they make it home to California? Will they defeat Hellferata?) remain unanswered. In the meantime, though, there are plenty of monster attacks and that offset the many chapters of raw dialogue at the start of the story.

Satisfying action and adventure.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983669500

Page Count: 470

Publisher: Chivileri Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2012

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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It’s slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school.


From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 1

In a rousing first novel, already an award-winner in England, Harry is just a baby when his magical parents are done in by Voldemort, a wizard so dastardly other wizards are scared to mention his name.

So Harry is brought up by his mean Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia Dursley, and picked on by his horrid cousin Dudley. He knows nothing about his magical birthright until ten years later, when he learns he’s to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts is a lot like English boarding school, except that instead of classes in math and grammar, the curriculum features courses in Transfiguration, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry becomes the star player of Quidditch, a sort of mid-air ball game. With the help of his new friends Ron and Hermione, Harry solves a mystery involving a sorcerer’s stone that ultimately takes him to the evil Voldemort. This hugely enjoyable fantasy is filled with imaginative details, from oddly flavored jelly beans to dragons’ eggs hatched on the hearth.

It’s slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-590-35340-3

Page Count: 309

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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