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THREE TASKS FOR A DRAGON

An elegant and inspired fairy tale that feels both familiar and freshly penned.

A peaceful prince, an aging dragon, and a mysterious maiden forge a unique alliance.

Prince Lir does not possess the power to summon the wolfhounds and is thus unworthy to govern his kingdom. So begins a story of gifts discovered in struggle and friendship forged in adversity. Lir’s stepbrother, Delbayne, who has sinister motives, sends him to fight a dragon, anticipating his demise. Lir is an unlikely questing knight, a bookish young man interested in natural sciences and happy to serve his kingdom humbly in the royal library. Arriving at the dragon’s secluded island, he finds a lethargic beast incapable of flying or breathing fire and drunk on cherry wine made from berries stomped by Cethlenn, a servant girl with a hazy past in the palace kitchens. Adhering to tradition, Lir proposes to perform three tasks to free Cethlenn. Instead of challenging the dragon, Lir endeavors, rather radically, to restore him to health using his scientific skill. Simultaneously, the omniscient narrator slowly unravels Delbayne’s plans for violent attack, which build to an epic, cinematically dramatic battle whose outcome will depend upon the island trio’s nascent trust in one another. Colfer draws out details of kingdom-building in lyrical language while interweaving his characters’ relatable idiosyncrasies, motives, and griefs. Lynch’s sandy orange and misty blue hued watercolor illustrations, replete with detailed dragon profiles and majestic wolfhounds, seamlessly frame the story and bring Colfer’s mostly white-presenting characters fully to life.

An elegant and inspired fairy tale that feels both familiar and freshly penned. (Fantasy. 8-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781536229998

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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A ROVER'S STORY

The intelligences here may be (mostly) artificial, but the feelings are genuine and deep.

A Mars rover discovers that it has a heart to go with its two brains.

Warga follows her cybernetic narrator from first awareness to final resting place—and stony indeed will be any readers who remain unmoved by the journey. Though unable to ask questions of the hazmats (named for their suits) assembling it in a NASA lab, the rover, dubbed Resilience by an Ohio sixth grader, gets its first inklings of human feelings from two workers who talk to it, play it music, and write its pleasingly bug-free code. Other machines (even chatty cellphones) reject the notion that there’s any real value to emotions. But the longer those conversations go, the more human many start sounding, particularly after Res lands in Mars’ Jezero Crater and, with help from Fly, a comically excitable drone, and bossy satellite Guardian, sets off on twin missions to look for evidence of life and see if an older, silenced rover can be brought back online. Along with giving her characters, human and otherwise, distinct voices and engaging personalities, the author quietly builds solid relationships (it’s hardly a surprise when, after Fly is downed in a dust storm, Res trundles heroically to the rescue in defiance of orders) on the way to rest and joyful reunions years later. A subplot involving brown-skinned, Arabic-speaking NASA coder Rania unfolds through her daughter Sophia’s letters to Res.

The intelligences here may be (mostly) artificial, but the feelings are genuine and deep. (afterword, resources) (Science fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-311392-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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