A gripping, if sometimes dark and perplexing, fantasy coming-of-age novel.

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THE CRYSTILLERIES OF ECHOLAND

In this middle-grade fantasy novel, a young hero must ally with his alter ego in an intricate parallel universe in order to rescue his sister and save his own life.

Twelve-year-old Will Cleary was only 2 when he and his twin sister, Emmy, became two of hundreds who “simply vanished” without a trace, whose disappearances were recorded in a dusty tome known as the “gravestone book.” Only Will returned, brought back a week later by Deá and Damian, a wolf and a falcon who became his inseparable companions. Now Will, with Deá and Damian at his side, sets off to rescue his sister. His quest leads him to unexpected, magical destinations, including a land where a boy relived his birthday over and over before uncovering the secret of Echoland, a shadow version of Earth. There, everyone has a translucent counterpart—an “Echo,” who can only live while their “Sound,” or earthly equivalent, remains alive. Will’s Echo, the Prince of Echoland, has dangerous enemies; they plan to murder Will in order to destroy the Prince. Will must negotiate the dangers of this strange world to help the Prince before the murderous Fate Sealers kill them both. Author Pellucid appears as a character in this novel. In Echoland, she creates a complex, detailed world, filled with crystalline imagery. The relationship between Sounds and their Echoes is intriguing, if sometimes confusing, and the narrative weaves in elements of Hamlet (the prince must avenge his dead father) and Christianity (both young heroes were born on Christmas). The plot features several twists as Will painfully learns who his friends and enemies are. Some of the action scenes are chaotic, and there are some grisly scenes, but the suspense is handled well. The ending leaves several loose ends unresolved, suggesting a future third volume.

A gripping, if sometimes dark and perplexing, fantasy coming-of-age novel.

Pub Date: March 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-987565-16-4

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Nothing but the Story

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2018

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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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