A mixed bag: Fights and reveals are lackluster, but the stars and steampunk glow.

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THE STAR SHEPHERD

Stars are falling, and the people who usually send them back up aren’t able.

Kyro’s father, Tirin, works as a Star Shepherd. He watches the skies all night. When a star falls to Earth nearby, Kyro and Tirin run outdoors, scoop it up, and catapult it back to the sky before dawn. Each star is different: One’s a “strange, molten thing, with light leaking out over its curves”; another “shimmer[s] like liquid silver but [i]s as light as a handful of feathers.” But something’s wrong: Stars are falling in daylight and in clusters, the gaps they leave in the dark sky allowing ancient, evil creatures into the world. When Tirin disappears, Kyro, with pal Andra (a girl who’s more supportiveness trope than person), embarks on a desperate journey to find his father. The plot begins as a wondrous celestial fable with some steampunk elements—cogs and gears; clockwork; star cases of “glass and metal with hooks built into the design and angled just right to catch on the edges of the sky.” But it morphs surprisingly and disappointingly into a story of combat featuring sentient, mechanical giants and fire-breathing spiders with slimy black webbing. The final battle slogs, and the plot’s reveals are reported listlessly. However, the star premise shines throughout. Kyro, Tirin, and Andra seem white or light-skinned.

A mixed bag: Fights and reveals are lackluster, but the stars and steampunk glow. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5820-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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Series fans will enjoy revisiting familiar characters and exploring the island of Cuba with them.

THE MADRE DE AGUAS OF CUBA

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 5

The Unicorn Rescue Society investigates the disappearance of a Cuban sea serpent.

In the fifth series installment, returning protagonists Uchenna and Elliot are in school, learning about water, when Professor Fauna calls them away. As the kids board the professor’s rickety single-propeller plane, they learn where exactly they are heading: Cuba. The island is in the middle of a massive drought, and Professor Fauna has reason to believe that the Madres de aguas (the Mother of Waters) has gone missing. It’s up to the society to find the sea serpent before any more damage is done to the people and wildlife of Cuba. As they set out on their mission of derring-do, they realize that once again they are up against their nemeses, the Schmoke Brothers. Via Yoenis, their Cuban American society liaison, Uchenna, Elliot, and readers learn about the political and economic hardships experienced by the people of Cuba, the island’s lack of basic goods and necessities, and Cuba’s need for real democracy (although the current role of the military is elided). This is conveyed within a quick, fast-paced read that’s ideal for kids who want a straightforward magical adventure. Uchenna is Nigerian, Elliot is white and Jewish, and Professor Fauna is Peruvian.

Series fans will enjoy revisiting familiar characters and exploring the island of Cuba with them. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3142-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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