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A role-playing game draws the ire of both a church group and a quartet of real wizards in this double-stranded, tongue-in-cheek tale from the author of Dunk (2002). To Mercer, a.k.a. Shath’dra the Warrior Mage, “Wizards of the Warrior World” is just a harmless after-school, weekend—and, OK, all-the-time-in-between—obsession. But his classmate Ed thinks otherwise, and after Ed’s critical essay for the school paper is picked up by the local news, so do the anti-witchcraft picketers who appear outside the town’s middle school. Mercer also finds himself being hounded by four ragged habitués of a nearby soup kitchen, who keep calling him “magus,” and seem desperately upset. Lubar sets up the picketers as straw figures, summarily dispersed once Mercer articulates counter-arguments—but it’s an expensive victory, for suddenly cautious school officials also prohibit playing the game on school property. Mercer’s outrage changes to excitement, however, when the shabby four turn out to be weak but genuine magic workers, stranded in this dimension until they can find a fifth wizard to help them open a way out. Mercer’s eagerness to oblige leads to a wild climax, in which the newly opened portal admits a lightning-charged monster—who is fought off only after the previously unassuming school janitor suddenly reveals himself to be a powerful guardian wizard in disguise. The multiple plots and subplots never do quite come together, but the tale moves along briskly to a rousing, twisty finish. Gamers and general light comedy fans will love it. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-23706-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 3

Ultimately more than a little full of itself, but well-stocked with big themes, inventively spun fairy-tale tropes, and...

Good has won every fairy-tale contest with Evil for centuries, but a dark sorcerer’s scheme to turn the tables comes to fruition in this ponderous closer.

Broadening conflict swirls around frenemies Agatha and Sophie as the latter joins rejuvenated School Master Rafal, who has dispatched an army of villains from Capt. Hook to various evil stepmothers to take stabs (literally) at changing the ends of their stories. Meanwhile, amid a general slaughter of dwarves and billy goats, Agatha and her rigid but educable true love, Tedros, flee for protection to the League of Thirteen. This turns out to be a company of geriatric versions of characters, from Hansel and Gretel (in wheelchairs) to fat and shrewish Cinderella, led by an enigmatic Merlin. As the tale moves slowly toward climactic battles and choices, Chainani further lightens the load by stuffing it with memes ranging from a magic ring that must be destroyed and a “maleficent” gown for Sophie to this oddly familiar line: “Of all the tales in all the kingdoms in all the Woods, you had to walk into mine.” Rafal’s plan turns out to be an attempt to prove that love can be twisted into an instrument of Evil. Though the proposition eventually founders on the twin rocks of true friendship and family ties, talk of “balance” in the aftermath at least promises to give Evil a fighting chance in future fairy tales. Bruno’s polished vignettes at each chapter’s head and elsewhere add sophisticated visual notes.

Ultimately more than a little full of itself, but well-stocked with big themes, inventively spun fairy-tale tropes, and flashes of hilarity. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-210495-3

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2015

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