A well-paced series opener with plenty of action.

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THE CHANGELING WARRIORS

In Wilson’s (The Young King, 2017, etc.) YA novel, a young teenager vacationing in Ireland discovers that he has a special destiny to fight evil.

British 13-year-old Peter Wanderer dreads having to spend two whole weeks of his vacation on an isolated Irish island, keeping his elderly aunt company after her recent widowhood. Although he’s prepared for a dull fortnight, dramatic events soon occur: Peter finds himself playing the fiddle better than ever before; three islanders go missing under mysterious circumstances; and there are local reports of pooka or perhaps dullaghans—evil, animal-shaped demons. Even stranger, two old men introduce themselves to Peter and his new acquaintance, a teenage local girl named Siobhan Kelly, as leprechauns and give the pair startling news: they’re both changelings from the “faery” world, and their special skills are desperately needed. Recent construction drilling has awakened Catharnach, an evil giant with many horrible followers, who’s only a representative of the much more fearsome Miasma of Evil. Both teenagers struggle to accept demanding realities—magical beings, changelings, time travel, reincarnation—and the tasks that await them: Peter must find and play a magic harp, and Siobhan must tap into her past life as a great Irish faery warrior in order to face Catharnach. They’ll have help in this endeavor, including from 16th-century pirate Grace O’Malley, but the bigger battle is only beginning. Author Wilson makes good use of Irish history, myth, and legend here to provide a different take on the typical fantasy-adventure plot about a teenager who discovers that he’s more special than he realized. (Siobhan, too, but this is mainly Peter’s story.) The Irish mythology–flavored heroes and villains are a nice change from the usual elves, orcs, dwarves, and such. The book offers engaging episodes of fighting and adventure interspersed with graceful exposition. Although Peter’s and Siobhan’s near-instant access to enormous talents sans long hours of practice offers pleasurable wish-fulfillment, it’s less satisfying than having them learn skills on their own. However, it helps to balance the scales, giving the two a chance to show their considerable courage. Future adventures follow in two published sequels.

A well-paced series opener with plenty of action.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4990-9993-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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