The action never lets up, but readers are likely to come away from this trilogy opener more confused than intrigued.

READ REVIEW

ESCAPE FROM MERCY HALL

From the Thorn Gate Trilogy series , Vol. 1

Three orphans pass through a tall hedge and find themselves in a world of advanced (to them) technology and carnivorous sheep.

Rescuing fellow orphan Milly from orange-robed kidnappers, George and Sam discover a temporary gap that has opened in a seemingly impenetrable hedge. Beyond is a land of shark-toothed “Muttons” (and actual sharks in the rivers), talking animals and child-sized humanoids. These last ride floating carts along a road powered with electricity from a Robe-owned generating plant, which is staffed by stolen children. So it’s off to another rescue—aided greatly by a passage through a “Rainbow Cave” where Milly gains super strength and the boys acquire other powers. At the end of the entirely predictable escapade, all return to the orphanage to find that the evil headmaster has fled, leaving them in charge. Signs of slipshod construction range from the Robes’ utterly ineffectual efforts to capture the orphans to the sudden reappearance of a dog that was killed in the first chapter. These only add to the overall sense that the author has just thrown together familiar tropes and random elements in hopes that they’ll stick to each other. Occasional small monochrome drawings add neither character nor detail.

The action never lets up, but readers are likely to come away from this trilogy opener more confused than intrigued. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-956712-24-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Inside Pocket

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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There’s nothing exceptional here, but the otherworldly elements and headlong pacing will sweep readers along.

HENRY HUNTER AND THE CURSED PIRATES

From the Henry Hunter series , Vol. 2

In a second brush with the supernatural (following Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov, 2016), brainy young sleuth Henry and his faithful chronicler, Adolphus, are kidnapped by undead pirates. Yo ho ho!

News that a friend’s parents have vanished on a cruise in the Caribbean prompts the dapper kid detective (looking ever natty in suit, tie, and fedora in Tankard’s lavishly detailed drawings) to take a quick sabbatical from St. Grimbold’s School for Extraordinary Boys and fly to Barbados to investigate. Hardly has he begun than an ectoplasmic tentacle grabs him and his sidekick, Dolf—depositing both aboard the spectral ship of Blackbeard himself. The legendary pirate is still around courtesy of a curse laid on a certain bit of booty and, since ghosts can’t hold shovels, bent on collecting hapless tourists to dig up buried treasure. Matthews enthusiastically chucks bits of pirate lore, along with the odd skeleton, map, and treasure chest, into the enterprise, and for additional atmosphere, the illustrator strews margins and corners with bugs, fish, stormy seas, and nautical jetsam. Aside from a “Rastafarian” guide, the entire cast, living and otherwise, is evidently white (and, with one minor exception, male). By the end, the curse is broken, the pirates gone, the captives rescued, and Henry himself mysteriously vanished in the wake of an encounter with merpeople. Stay tuned.

There’s nothing exceptional here, but the otherworldly elements and headlong pacing will sweep readers along. (Fantasy/mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-51071-039-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Ghost-story fans won’t be disappointed in the end, if they can slog that far through all the low-wattage civil-service...

THE MINISTRY OF GHOSTS

The threat of imminent shutdown prompts a small government agency to hire a pair of young independent contractors to capture a ghost in this British import.

On the way to a pleasantly tidy ending, Shearer delivers some comical chills and twists, but he takes too long to set them up. Driven by a blustering government cost-cutter’s ultimatum, the four (or five, counting the cat) remaining members of the antique Ministry of Ghosts—originally founded in 1792 to determine whether spirits are bunkum or real—decide a fresh approach is needed. The “help wanted” card they place in the dusty window of their ramshackle building draws two students from the local school: strong-minded Thruppence Coddley, daughter of a fishmonger, and timorous but game classmate Tim Legge, both white. The author salts his tale liberally with subtle clues and oddly quaint characters, and he eventually arrives at some startling (for unobservant readers, at least) revelations. But aside from brief mentions in a prologue, the two young people don’t even show up to get the ghost hunting under way until seven wordy introductory chapters have trundled slowly by, filled with eye-glazing exchanges and daily routines in an office where nothing much has changed in decades.

Ghost-story fans won’t be disappointed in the end, if they can slog that far through all the low-wattage civil-service satire. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5107-0473-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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