A magically pleasant, if structurally familiar, series opener.

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MAGI

COMMENCEMENT

This YA fantasy brings an unsuspecting teen to a summer camp for magicians.

In Louisiana’s St. Malo Bayou, 14-year-old Rowan Dupard is on a fishing trip with his father and his younger brother, Nathaniel. Rowan is bored, swirling his finger in the water. He believes only a “stroke of magic” can save the trip. He then sees a shimmery film on the water that pricks his finger. Suddenly, he’s transported through a portal to “the realm.” He awakes at Camp Tituba, where teen magi are grouped by family skill and trained for the summer. But as the kids touch a magic wand to be sorted into color-coded families (miner, nurse, seafarer, aviator, and seer), Rowan causes the wand to cycle through all five hues. Baba, protector of the realm, thinks Rowan is a security risk. Hilda, director of the Migus Protection Organization, believes he belongs. To learn various aspects of the camp and to mine the stones through which they channel magical belief, the teens break into groups. Rowan is teamed with Zinnia Stone, Milton Zephyr, Ikki Ken, Rashi Rivers, and Tempest Squall. Will they learn to work together before the rogue magician Lefou strikes? Borne’s series opener crosses the rough-and-tumble novelty of summer camp with the structure of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. Worldbuilding and the mystery of why Rowan is different carry much of the narrative. Initially, dramatic moments seldom interrupt readers’ tour of the realm, until a giant sea horse attacks Rowan and the taciturn Ikki finally speaks. Later, breaches of the camp by Lefou’s followers, the Furious, help sustain the tension. Milton and his mom, Magus Mildred Zephyr, provide Rowan with more immediate threats; the former has no concept of teamwork and the latter tries to have him removed from the camp. While the author’s prose is often simple, she sometimes uses challenging words without clearly defining them in the text (“Magus Zephyr responds with excellent elocution”). By the summer’s end, Rowan returns to his father with no lost time thanks to the “time continuum.” The lingering image of a face “imprinted” on a tupelo tree provides an eerie finish.

A magically pleasant, if structurally familiar, series opener.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73292-843-5

Page Count: 346

Publisher: Aurora Book Company

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2020

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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