THE STONES ARE HATCHING

McCaughrean (Pirate’s Son, 1999, etc.) sends a lad through as fine an array of malign faeries, usteys, corn wives, soul-stealing merrows, skinless muckelavees, and other deadly bogles as ever lurked in Celtic folklore, in hopes of slaying a dragon literally “half the size of Wales.” It all comes upon 11-year-old Phelim suddenly, when his home’s supernatural guardian, the Domovoy, appears, calling him “Jack O’Green” and insisting that he better get a move on. It seems that the guns of the WWI have not only disturbed the 2,000-year sleep of the Stoor Worm that lies along the Welsh coast, but have set her stone eggs to hatching out all the creatures of nightmare to boot. Frightened and mystified but gaining confidence as he goes, Phelim acquires some unlikely companions—Alexia, a young witch; Sweeney, a soldier driven mad in the Napoleonic Wars; and for transportation, a headless, ungainly “Obby Oss.” He narrowly escapes death several times, and learns what he needs to know from his adventures to accomplish his seemingly hopeless task. McCaughrean creates a world turned upside down, in which creatures thought safely tucked away in entertaining legends assume terrifying reality, and old local blood rites are revived in self defense: as the Obby Oss says, “Magic is not nice. Magics wuz never nice.” Nor, as it turns out, is Phelim, quite, for at the end he dispatches his trollish big sister to the ends of the earth on a water sprite’s back for placing their father, the real Jack O'Green, into an asylum. Despite the distracting family subplot, not since William Mayne’s Hob and the Goblins (1994) has the Old Magic risen in the modern world with such resounding menace. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-028765-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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GATHERING BLUE

From the Giver Quartet series , Vol. 2

Lowry returns to the metaphorical future world of her Newbery-winning The Giver (1993) to explore the notion of foul reality disguised as fair. Born with a twisted leg, Kira faces a bleak future after her mother dies suddenly, leaving her without protection. Despite her gift for weaving and embroidery, the village women, led by cruel, scarred Vandara, will certainly drive the lame child into the forest, where the “beasts” killed her father, or so she’s been told. Instead, the Council of Guardians intervenes. In Kira’s village, the ambient sounds of voices raised in anger and children being slapped away as nuisances quiets once a year when the Singer, with his intricately carved staff and elaborately embroidered robe, recites the tale of humanity’s multiple rises and falls. The Guardians ask Kira to repair worn historical scenes on the Singer’s robe and promise her the panels that have been left undecorated. Comfortably housed with two other young orphans—Thomas, a brilliant wood-carver working on the Singer’s staff, and tiny Jo, who sings with an angel’s voice—Kira gradually realizes that their apparent freedom is illusory, that their creative gifts are being harnessed to the Guardians’ agenda. And she begins to wonder about the deaths of her parents and those of her companions—especially after the seemingly hale old woman who is teaching her to dye expires the day after telling her there really are no beasts in the woods. The true nature of her society becomes horribly clear when the Singer appears for his annual performance with chained, bloody ankles, followed by Kira’s long-lost father, who, it turns out, was blinded and left for dead by a Guardian. Next to the vividly rendered supporting cast, the gentle, kindhearted Kira seems rather colorless, though by electing at the end to pit her artistic gift against the status quo instead of fleeing, she does display some inner stuff. Readers will find plenty of material for thought and discussion here, plus a touch of magic and a tantalizing hint (stay sharp, or you’ll miss it) about the previous book’s famously ambiguous ending. A top writer, in top form. (author’s note) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-618-05581-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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I AM NUMBER FOUR

From the Lorien Legacies series , Vol. 1

If it were a Golden Age comic, this tale of ridiculous science, space dogs and humanoid aliens with flashlights in their hands might not be bad. Alas... Number Four is a fugitive from the planet Lorien, which is sloppily described as both "hundreds of lightyears away" and "billions of miles away." Along with eight other children and their caretakers, Number Four escaped from the Mogadorian invasion of Lorien ten years ago. Now the nine children are scattered on Earth, hiding. Luckily and fairly nonsensically, the planet's Elders cast a charm on them so they could only be killed in numerical order, but children one through three are dead, and Number Four is next. Too bad he's finally gained a friend and a girlfriend and doesn't want to run. At least his newly developing alien powers means there will be screen-ready combat and explosions. Perhaps most idiotic, "author" Pittacus Lore is a character in this fiction—but the first-person narrator is someone else entirely. Maybe this is a natural extension of lightly hidden actual author James Frey's drive to fictionalize his life, but literature it ain't. (Science fiction. 11-13)

     

 

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-196955-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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