Harry Potter–like threads spun into a fresh, enjoyable mix of magic and mystery.

THE CROWNS OF CROSWALD

A teenage orphan enters a curious school and encounters mysteries and dangerous secrets in this first installment of a debut YA fantasy series.

Life in Croswald is about to change for 16-year-old orphan Ivy, a lowly castle maid in charge of the kitchen “scaldrons,” oven-heating, fire-breathing dragons. Fleeing the castle after a messy scaldron mishap, Ivy hops a strange conveyance that transports her to a school for potential quill-wielding, spell-casting “scrivenists.” (The author’s creative language—students are “sqwinches,” and “hairies” are lanterns housing fairies with luminous hair—is one of the book’s pleasures.) Learning that there is more to her gift for sketching than she realized, Ivy studies spells and the magical properties of inks and quills, but strange things keep happening. Why is an old scrivenist, long thought dead, working in secret? Why is the head of the oddly familiar school moving paintings to the “Forgetting Room” so that no one will remember they existed? How can Ivy get a look at a certain journal stored there, and what does it have to do with her recurrent dream? And why has Ivy drawn the interest of the Dark Queen of Croswald and her truly fearsome Cloaked Brood? The intrigue is layered with such whimsical inventions as one school lunchroom run by ghostly bad cooks and another by a jester who is best avoided, scrivenists who end their lives as tomes in a library, and small houses pulled by a gargantuan flying beast with its own weather system. Yes, there are many Harry Potter–ish elements: a school for young wand-wielders, quirky shops dealing in enchanted student supplies, eccentric characters, spells gone wrong, an evil pursuer. But Night’s blend of magic, danger, and suspense (and a touch of steampunk) is a well-realized, fresh fantasy world all its own, and Ivy is an appealing protagonist of relatable complexity. A few bobbles: Ivy seems to go without food for long stretches; the use of “effected” rather than “affected”; a professor who is both standing and perched on a chair.

Harry Potter–like threads spun into a fresh, enjoyable mix of magic and mystery.

Pub Date: July 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9969486-5-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Stories Untold Press

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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THE LAST BOOK IN THE UNIVERSE

In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

BEHIND THE BLUE

A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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