One assumes that this story was pitched at an acquisitions meeting as “Harry Potter meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Luka, an orphan, has been raised by the indigent monk Atami as the Chosen One, the Holy Boy destined to free China from the Mogo occupation. Instead of a scar on his forehead, he bears five moles on each foot, and, like his Western counterpart, he must undergo severe trials and learn an arcane art in order to realize his destiny. A series of misadventures (including a short stay on death row), which separates him from Atami, leads to Luka’s discovery of a new mentor, Yin Gong grandmaster Gulan, and his formal apprenticeship at the Xi-Ling temple. Chen’s (China’s Son, 2001) first foray into fiction represents a headlong dash through an alternate China in which magic lurks just below the surface. Luka is an appealing character whose determination and facility with the martial arts are balanced by humor and a healthy dose of pre-adolescent competitiveness. He collects around him a coterie of friends, from a pair of street ruffians to a trio of students who instruct him in temple etiquette and help him in his feud with Yi-Shen, the resentful boy he displaces as junior master. The language is colloquial, even earthy, and helps to maintain the work’s sense of fun; this is light years away from the ponderous, stilted martial-arts saga of the popular Western imagination. The breathless pace helps to conceal some looseness in the plotting, including a real fuzziness about the time elapsed during Luka’s adventures, but with secret tunnels and magical beasts galore, who cares? While the story and characters cannot be accused of blazing originality, this offering nevertheless presents an agreeable and unusual twist on a tried-and-true formula—a solid addition to the “While you’re waiting for . . . ” display. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-73020-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 1

A century before the events of Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy, another everyday heroine gets entangled with demon-slaying Shadowhunters. Sixteen-year-old orphaned Tessa comes to London to join her brother but is imprisoned by the grotesque Dark Sisters. The sisters train the unwilling Tessa in previously unknown shapeshifter abilities, preparing her to be a pawn in some diabolical plan. A timely rescue brings Tessa to the Institute, where a group of misfit Shadowhunters struggles to fight evil. Though details differ, the general flavor of Tessa’s new family will be enjoyably familiar to the earlier trilogy’s fans; the most important is Tessa’s rescuer Will, the gorgeous, sharp-tongued teenager with a mysterious past and a smile like “Lucifer might have smiled, moments before he fell from Heaven.” The lush, melodramatic urban fantasy setting of the Shadowhunter world morphs seamlessly into a steampunk Victorian past, and this new series provides the setup for what will surely be a climactic battle against hordes of demonically powered brass clockworks. The tale drags in places, but this crowdpleaser’s tension-filled conclusion ratchets toward a new set of mysteries. (Steampunk. 13-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7586-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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