The sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm (not reviewed) continues to spoof traditional fantasy, this time satirizing the “school for magic” genre. Nine years after the wizard Derk shut down the demonic Mr. Chesney’s devastating Tours, Derk’s precocious but naïve griffin daughter Elda enrolls in the Wizards’ University, only to discover its crumbling infrastructure, stripped library, and stunted curriculum reflect a faculty intent on stifling innovation in favor of utilitarian mediocrity. Elda assembles the requisite motley assortment of stalwart friends, sketchily presented in reverse stereotypes: the poverty-stricken prince, the beautiful, compassionate commoner, the meek imperial princess, the revolutionary jargon-spouting dwarf, and the vaguely Eastern target of fanatic assassins. After a brief pep talk on free enquiry from Derk, the six rapidly outstrip their tutors’ magical prowess, and are soon foiling various nefarious villains, inciting the overthrow of a repressive regime, stopping wars, and inventing interplanetary exploration. Meanwhile, each reveals the obligatory dark secret and overcomes personal trauma, and all are neatly paired off in a denouement of sudden, nigh-inexplicable romances. This is all fun, frothy stuff, and Jones writes with a deft hand and a wicked sense of the absurdities inherent in the conventional formulas. Teens harboring doubts about their teachers’ competency and sanity will revel in it. But the breakneck pace makes for perfunctory characterization and a muddled narrative, delivering neither the inspired lunacy nor the sophisticated twisty plotting that her fans expect. Like a chocolate-covered marshmallow, this is tasty fluff, but unsatisfying. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-688-17898-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes


From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.


From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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