A shaky but promising start to a new sci-fi YA trilogy.

Undermountain

In Edstrom’s debut young-adult novel, aliens live beneath the Canadian Rockies—much to the surprise of a group of teenagers on an extended backcountry hike.

Sixteen-year-old Danny Michaelson and his sister, Em, embark on a hike, led by the grizzled, veteran mountaineer Harvin, with their friends Wa, Breyona, Shiv and Bronson. Six days into the hike, Danny and Breyona encounter a strange, shrieking alien creature with two heads—and are then rescued by a “bigfoot.” Later, a bigfoot takes the teens to a vast underground city called Undermountain, where the shaggy humanoids, who call themselves “the People,” make their home. The People turn out to be a benign alien race whose members take an oath to “do no harm,” and they’ve settled on Earth to protect humanity from the shrieking aliens, known as the tangeg. Edstrom creatively blends folklore and science fiction; the novel’s most original and best conceit is that the legendary bigfoot is an alien species—not a missing link in humanity’s evolution. The interaction between the species is absorbing, as is the novel’s examination of the philosophical problems facing a pacifist society under attack. Unfortunately, the human characters often lack this complexity and sometimes come off as two-dimensional. Shiv, for example, speaks in near-robotic phrases, such as “Let us keep our voices low so the others don’t overhear.” Although this quirk is likely meant as characterization, it instead rings hollow. However, this novel does have some engaging ideas, and it combines elements of young-adult adventure, cryptozoology and alien invasion, with just a touch of “Hollow Earth” theory, to create a rollicking tale of discovery.

A shaky but promising start to a new sci-fi YA trilogy.

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1470058876

Page Count: 354

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2013

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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