A quest fantasy that moves further into mediocrity despite plenty of borrowed notions and tropes.

THE WIDTH OF THE WORLD

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 3

Vega Jane and her cohorts at last find the home base of the evil wizards who have conquered the world—and discover that rebellion carries a high price.

Having escaped the town of Wormwood and the spell-protected wilderness around it in search of her family, newly fledged sorceress Vega Jane now confronts the Maladons—malign magicians who have ruled everywhere else for eight centuries over a populace brainwashed into mindless contentment. Working from a mansion that the head Maladon visited in olden times but is now somehow hidden (internal consistency is not a priority here), Vega Jane recruits and trains a small army of magicians to fight back while effecting rescues and eluding multiple ambushes with help from a ring of invisibility and spells that involve pointing wands and shouting words such as “Embattlemento” and “Engulfiado” that beg (unfavorable) comparison to J.K. Rowling. Baldacci mixes adolescent snogging, animate housewares, another talking book (see Volume 2, The Keeper, 2015), and bad guys uniformly dressed in pinstripe suits and brown bowlers into a tale that also features casual killing, torture, and forked-tongued demons. Throughout, he continues to demonstrate that he doesn’t have Rowling’s knack for mixing sly fun with truly dark doings. Moreover, repeated glimpses of characters with dark or brown (or “walnut”) skin are at best weak efforts to inject diversity into the cast.

A quest fantasy that moves further into mediocrity despite plenty of borrowed notions and tropes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-83196-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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With so many top-notch writers on tap, it's surprising this collection is only solid rather than exquisite; still, those...

WHAT YOU WISH FOR

A BOOK FOR DARFUR

This charitable benefit anthology gathers all-stars for both hits and misses on the theme of wishing.

Twelve stories are accompanied by five poems and one warmly vivid graphic short. Francisco X. Stork introduces Pablito, Breaker-Breaker and Sherry B in a stellar tale of teens supporting one another in a group home. Sofia Quintero's "The Great Wall," about a Jamaican-American girl with a thing for the Chinese-food delivery guy, is entertaining enough to overcome its brick-to-the-head lack of subtlety. Meg Cabot's nerdy hero, seeking a friend, is heartbreakingly funny. The stories cover First World problems, far from the Sudanese refugees described in the saccharine foreword by Mia Farrow, but that distance only helps the collection. John Green's "Reasons" directly addresses some of the moral issues underlying the desire to rescue people from other countries in a thought-provoking piece about a boy in love with a sponsored Kashmiri child. Ann M. Martin's epistolary tale shows two girls with different sets of financial and social problems finding support in each other's friendship. As for the poetry, with offerings from Naomi Shihab Nye, Marilyn Nelson, Gary Soto and Nikki Giovanni, even these tiny verses are lovely.

With so many top-notch writers on tap, it's surprising this collection is only solid rather than exquisite; still, those readers willing to brave anthologies will be rewarded . (Anthology. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25454-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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