WIZARDS OF THE GAME

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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THE BURNING BRIDGE

From the Ranger's Apprentice series , Vol. 2

More absorbing, straight-arrow adventures set in the medieval, alternate world kingdom of Araluen and featuring the three apprentices introduced in The Ruins of Gorlan (2005). As the brutish wargals of Morgorath, Lord of Rain and Night, gather for an invasion, deft young Will and his strapping friend Horace discover that Morgorath has planned a complex feint that, unless scotched, will spell doom for the armies of Araluen. The third apprentice, diplomat-in-training Alyss, is relegated to a subplot in this outing, but is sure to play larger roles in future episodes. Flanagan explains more than he needs to but propels the plot forward at a heady clip, stirring in live-wire characters who are still learning the finer points of their assigned professions but prove equal to each challenge they face. He also adds to the company a young fugitive who is far more than the lady’s maid she claims to be, and closes with the requisite battle, a breathtaking single combat—and a dismaying lead-in to the next episode. It all adds up to a winning formula that should prove out to a long, steady run for this above average series. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24455-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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THE EMPEROR OF NIHON-JA

From the Ranger's Apprentice series , Vol. 10

The 10th and final full-length episode in an alternate-Earth series that's just about reached its sell-by date unites the five members of the central cast in yet another rescue mission to a distant land. This time its a thinly disguised medieval Japan, where bluff young warrior Horace has been swept up in the entourage accompanying a kindly emperor who is on the run from a vicious usurper. Thanks to a sequence of massive coincidences, he is soon joined in a remote mountain fortress by Rangers Will (who graduated from "apprentice" about five volumes ago) and his crusty mentor Halt, plus temperamental Princess Evanlyn and her spunky frenemy Alyss. While the usurper and his forces obligingly winter nearby, the menfolk train a peasant army for the true emperor while Evanlyn and Alyss set out to recruit more allies and have an air-clearing heart-to-heart about who really loves whom. By the end battles are won, bad guys slain, feasts held and everyone heads home for weddings and further adventures. The "keep it simple" approach has served Flanagan—and readers who prefer predictable plots and easily recognizable settings and character types—well, but the formula has staled. "The Final Battle" blazoned on the cover indicates a recognition of this fact, though loose ends leave open the possibility of further, as-yet-unplanned developments. Here's hoping a break will restore zing to future adventures. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25500-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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