Readers will also delight in Charlie’s transformation from hotheaded victim to shrewd leader—and friend.

CASTLE OF SHADOWS

British author Renner kicks off a new series with smart writing that combines mystery, historical fantasy and a touch of steampunk.

Her mother disappeared five years ago, and her loony father consumes his days with building playing-card towers. As a consequence, 11-year-old Princess Charlotte Augusta Joanna Hortense—aka Charlie—of Quale, an imaginary country in a Victorian-like time, has not been treated as royalty. She has endured near starvation and strict discipline at the hands of the castle caretaker. When she overhears whispers of revolution and finds a lost letter written by her mother, plucky Charlie begins to question her surroundings and dares to hope for her mother’s return. This well-crafted tale focuses on storytelling over a formulaic plot as Charlie wonders whom to trust with her mother’s letter: Mr. Moleglass, the basement-dwelling butler; Alistair Windlass, the young, charismatic prime minister; Tobias, the 12-year-old gardener’s boy with a skill for picking locks; or the revolutionaries she’s joined forces with. Possible double agents and nonstop twists and turns keep readers guessing as Charlie seems to raise more questions than answers concerning her mother’s disappearance and also her likely ties to a secret weapon against a warring, neighboring nation. Atmospheric trains, pneumatic tubes and other burgeoning technology of the time add a fantastical element to the old-fashioned setting.

Readers will also delight in Charlie’s transformation from hotheaded victim to shrewd leader—and friend. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-74446-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

THEY THREW US AWAY

From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel.

THE CLOCKWORK CROW

Young Seren Rhys stands on the cusp of a new life. Unfortunately for her, the train to her new life is late.

Following the death of her aunt, who saved her from her 12-year stay at the orphanage, she receives word that her godfather, Capt. Arthur Jones, will take her in. Seren spends her wait dreaming of the Jones family and their surely bustling, welcoming manor, Plas-y-Fran in Wales. An encounter with a mysterious man and his more mysterious wrapped parcel (containing the eponymous mechanical bird) leaves Seren reeling, and the mysteries multiply when she arrives at Plas-y-Fran. The place is shuttered and cold, nearly deserted but for a few fearful, oppressively unforthcoming servants. The captain and his wife are away; of their young son, Tomos, there is neither sign nor sound. With the Crow as her only, if reluctant, ally, Seren soon finds herself enmeshed in mayhem and magic that may prove lethal. In her characteristic style, Fisher crafts an elaborate fantasy from deceptively simple language. Seren is a sharp, saucy narrator whose constant puzzlement at others’ consternation over her impertinence provides running amusement. Supporting characters are fascinating if ambiguous players, not so much poorly drawn as poorly revealed, perhaps casualties of the quick pace. The deadened manor, however, provides the perfect backdrop for preternatural forces. Characters are presumed white.

A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1491-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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