Not a stand-alone episode, but definitely a pleaser for creature-feature fans.

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THE KEEPER

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 2

Baldacci piles on the monsters as he sends Vega Jane and her hunky, clever sidekick Delph through the magical Quag in this follow-up to The Finisher (2014).

Escaping the walled town of Wormwood in hopes of finding the “truth” that lies beyond, the two teens befriend or, more often, flee or slaughter a laundry list of creatures: garms, amarocs, lycans, venomous jabbits, snake-haired alectos, green-blooded Soul Takers, dreads, grubbs, hyperbores, and numerous other residents of the broad, weirdly mutable wilderness. For variety, they are also twice captured—once by a mad subterranean king and then by the Quag’s 800-year-old Keeper—and Vega has to die to get across a certain river guarded by a skeletal boatman. These all turn out to be only temporary setbacks, however. In blatant bids to add appeal, Baldacci supplements the teeming cast of ravening boojums with a new companion who may be an ally, a rival for Delph, or both, plus familiar elements like a ring that makes its wearer invisible and Harry Potter–esque spells, a talking book that delivers only infuriatingly vague advice, and frequent Briticisms (“Wotcha, Vega Jane”). The flights and fights are all set pieces without much sense of suspense or danger, and there are so many of them that even bloodthirsty readers might echo Vega Jane’s own exhausted “Let’s just finish this.”

Not a stand-alone episode, but definitely a pleaser for creature-feature fans. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-83194-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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I AM NUMBER FOUR

From the Lorien Legacies series , Vol. 1

If it were a Golden Age comic, this tale of ridiculous science, space dogs and humanoid aliens with flashlights in their hands might not be bad. Alas... Number Four is a fugitive from the planet Lorien, which is sloppily described as both "hundreds of lightyears away" and "billions of miles away." Along with eight other children and their caretakers, Number Four escaped from the Mogadorian invasion of Lorien ten years ago. Now the nine children are scattered on Earth, hiding. Luckily and fairly nonsensically, the planet's Elders cast a charm on them so they could only be killed in numerical order, but children one through three are dead, and Number Four is next. Too bad he's finally gained a friend and a girlfriend and doesn't want to run. At least his newly developing alien powers means there will be screen-ready combat and explosions. Perhaps most idiotic, "author" Pittacus Lore is a character in this fiction—but the first-person narrator is someone else entirely. Maybe this is a natural extension of lightly hidden actual author James Frey's drive to fictionalize his life, but literature it ain't. (Science fiction. 11-13)

     

 

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-196955-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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