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

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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AFTER HAMELIN

An expansion of the classic story of the pied piper, this tells of young Penelope, left behind when the piper returns for the children of Hamelin after saving the town from rats. On her 11th birthday, she must enter the world of dreams, accompanied by an eclectic assortment of companions—a talking cat, a jump-roping dragon, a blind harpist—and eventually face the piper himself in a battle of power, greed, and music. Narrated by a 101-year-old Penelope, the story bounces between recollections of the adventure, ruminations on her life, and meeting another Penelope, who is approaching her 11th birthday. By trying to incorporate too many subplots, Richardson fails to explain some of the more central points of the main story. He also introduces and dismisses concepts and props with no consistency. Penelope brings a jump rope with her, but it is rarely mentioned until she has use for it. The only way for Penelope to resist the piper’s enchanted music is to not hear it; she suddenly becomes deaf on her 11th birthday, an occurrence left unexplained. Nor does the reader ever find out why she conveniently regains her hearing upon entering the dreamland. Contrived and disjointed, this is an original interpretation that lacks development. Likely to attract lovers of fairy-tales, but it will disappoint. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55037-629-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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A fast-paced, satisfying capper to a trilogy that’s sure to enchant fans of adventure-driven fantasy.

THE RAVEN GOD

LEGENDS OF ORKNEY

Sam and his brave friends must rally to defend Orkney in the final installment of Adams’ (The Red Sun, 2015, etc.) YA fantasy series.

Thirteen-year-old Sam has settled into his “witch-boy” life in Orkney, still wracked with guilt that he killed his father, the powerful god Odin, while under the sway of another. When Odin’s wife, Queen Frigga, appears, she carries the message that Odin is in the dangerous underworld and that he must be found—fast. His death has torn the veil protecting Orkney, and the mischief-maker Loki is stirring up civil war in a plot to seek revenge on Odin for cursing his wife and children. But the quest will not be easy: Sam will need his imp friend, Mavery; the spunky witch, Perrin; and his friends Leo, Howie, and Keely if he’s going to accept the challenge. As Orkney prepares for an attack from Surt, lord of the fire world, Sam is given a toy ship that holds more magic than it appears; meanwhile, Keely must convince a king that his people need not go to war, while Howie finds ways to be clever as he stays behind to defend Orkney. The shape-shifting Loki impedes them at every turn, and Sam will be asked to make sacrifices, test his memory, and, above all, forgive himself (“I’m just a kid who found himself making all kinds of mistakes before he figured out who he was”). The overarching feud between Odin and Loki makes a nice framework for a novel that sprawls across multiple worlds, characters, and adventures. Witty dialogue keeps the story buoyant, and there’s also thoughtful worldbuilding, with every colorful setting making the fictional universe more fully realized. There’s also no shortage of captivating magic, from spells to powerful pendants, as well as a variety of mythical creatures. More than 20 characters appear in the first 50 pages, though, so readers should tackle the first two novels in the trilogy first—especially if they want to savor the emotionally tender ending.

A fast-paced, satisfying capper to a trilogy that’s sure to enchant fans of adventure-driven fantasy.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943006-36-6

Page Count: 344

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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