A crazed professional poacher and the elephant who smashed his leg 50 years before meet again in this brutal, melodramatic sequel to The Place of Lions (1991). In his hidden storeroom on the lifeless volcanic slopes of Tanzania’s Ol Doinyo Lengai, Laurens van der Wel has gathered thousands of tusks, but his special prey, known to the Masai as Papa Tembo, “Father Elephant,” remains elusive. About to slaughter another elephant family, van der Wel suddenly herds them instead into a close and torches it, sure that their screams will draw Papa Tembo, which they do. The prose is often colorful—“Only the carrion eaters had done well that year, the sly hyenas and gargoyle vultures lazily plying their putrescent trade”—but Campbell’s generalizations about Africa (e.g., “A world of magic and ancient savagery where life meant little,”) evoke a now-musty colonialism, and he adds characters more for didactic purposes than to enhance the plot: a scientist and his two teenage children to observe—at length—elephant behavior, and a pair of anti-poacher vigilantes from the previous book. They all come together in the smoke-filled climax in which Papa Tembo crushes the slobbering, gun-waving van der Wel into a pulp, then calmly allows the other humans to help the captured elephants escape. A long and tumid story, with little to see readers through beyond some lurid writing and, for those with a proclivity for such carnage, the expectation of gory just deserts. (glossary) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-15-201727-5

Page Count: 265

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998

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Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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


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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