Despite an engaging start and intriguing finish, Book 2 suffers from an overloaded middle that lessens the punch of its...

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THE RAVENS OF SOLEMANO

OR THE ORDER OF THE MYSTERIOUS MEN IN BLACK

From the Young Inventors Guild series , Vol. 2

In the middle volume of a planned trilogy, Bowditch’s Young Inventors Guild travels to an ancient Italian village, unearthing more questions than even an international team of geniuses can answer.

It’s 1903, and for a moment, Jasper, Lucy, Faye, Wallace and Noah (five brilliant children) have everything: longed-for parents who’ve magically returned to them, well-stocked labs, and their faithful teacher, Miss Brett. But the children are devastated when, whisked away by their darkly clad guardians, they see all they love explode. The story starts fast, generating many questions: Why is villain Komar Romak still after them? Why do their diaries vanish? And are the men in strange black garb friends or foes? Despite that quick start and some engaging ideas (explosive mirages, a meeting with Nikola Tesla, an escape in a ship-turned-submarine), the book slows when the travelers reach Solemano. There, the plot bogs down amid myriad details, including descriptions of a snowball fight and baked delicacies, childish squabbles, and unresolved emotional dramas (where have the children’s parents got to?). Like its guild members, this story seems to lack a clearly defined mission; there’s just too much for readers (especially those new to the series) to keep track of. The pace quickens in a suspenseful end that answers many questions but leaves others unresolved for the conclusion.

Despite an engaging start and intriguing finish, Book 2 suffers from an overloaded middle that lessens the punch of its plotline. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61088-104-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts...

THE ENCHANTRESS

From the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series , Vol. 5

Scott tops off his deservedly popular series with a heaping shovelful of monster attacks, heroic last stands, earthquakes and other geological events, magic-working, millennia-long schemes coming to fruition, hearts laid bare, family revelations, transformations, redemptions and happy endings (for those deserving them).

Multiple plotlines—some of which, thanks to time travel, feature the same characters and even figures killed off in previous episodes—come to simultaneous heads in a whirl of short chapters. Flamel and allies (including Prometheus and Billy the Kid) defend modern San Francisco from a motley host of mythological baddies. Meanwhile, in ancient Danu Talis (aka Atlantis), Josh and Sophie are being swept into a play to bring certain Elders to power as the city’s downtrodden “humani” population rises up behind Virginia Dare, the repentant John Dee and other Immortals and Elders. The cast never seems unwieldy despite its size, the pacing never lets up, and the individual set pieces are fine mixtures of sudden action, heroic badinage and cliffhanger cutoffs. As a whole, though, the tale collapses under its own weight as the San Francisco subplots turn out to be no more than an irrelevant sideshow, and climactic conflicts take place on an island that is somehow both a historical, physical place and a higher reality from which Earth and other “shadowrealms” are spun off.

Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts rather than a cohesive whole. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73535-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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