While the fantasy worldbuilding often goes heavy on magical argot, this series kickoff makes a decent foundation for...

COBBOGOTH

After her archaeologist uncle and his associate are slain by mystery fiends, Boston teenager Norah goes on the run; she is both hunted and protected by more-than-human warriors in this young adult novel.

The best conceit of author Clark’s fair opening to a planned YA fantasy series sort of lurks in the background scenery and takes a while to catch the viewer’s attention: Imagine a modern world in which fantasylands such as Atlantis and Hyperborea (Conan the Barbarian’s realm) were accepted historical facts. Thus, in the present day, intrigue surrounds their lost relics and lingering power. Except Clark focuses on her own mythic MacGuffin, an Icelandic civilization from 280 million years ago called Cobbogoth. There, the natives possessed mystic-crystal technology and enhanced cell structures giving them long lives and superpowers, and a sort of werewolf-bat-demon species called Dogril lurked. Norah Luken, 17, is a chosen-one type living in modern-day New England. Her uncle Jack, an archaeologist, explored the Cobbogothian ruins, even making scientific history by unearthing a Dogril skeleton. When Jack is brutally slain and his closest colleague ends up likewise, stunned Norah becomes the cops’ prime suspect. With her photographic memory and fragments of knowledge that Jack had, in fact, met with real, live Cobbogothians and found the great subterranean Cobbogoth city, Norah careens from one mysterious guardian-type to another (“I’m one of the last three qualdrine-wielding Naridi,” explains one Nordic hunk). The action (some of which causes pretty ghastly wounds, but the good guys invariably bounce back via crystal EMT) gets further and further from the mundane, human world and into the Cobbogothian one; amid all the nomenclature, shape-shifting characters and teleportation into TARDIS-like environments (ones that are bigger on the inside than the outside), Norah has a tough time telling up from down and friend from foe. Readers may be equally confused, though appreciable thought has gone into the author’s dense system of “elementalist” magic and pantheon of gods and demigods, more so than the typical dragons/Vikings stew. Stylized illustrations and marginalia are handsome touches, resembling the art of illuminated manuscripts more so than comic-book literal renderings.

While the fantasy worldbuilding often goes heavy on magical argot, this series kickoff makes a decent foundation for forthcoming mystic crystal revelations.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463732318

Page Count: 336

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2012

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An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences.

REALM BREAKER

When the realm is in danger, only a small band of misfits can save Allward.

An in medias res prologue, told from the point of view of the lone squire accompanying the 12 Companions of the Realm, tosses readers into the thick of a quest. Half the Companions are human heroes and half are immortal Elders; they seek to stop a rogue thief and his wizard accomplice from using a magical Spindle to tear a passage between worlds for nefarious ends. A disastrous battle sends squire Andry fleeing with Cortael’s sword so villain Taristan can’t get his hands on it. Grieving Elder Dom requires both a person of Corblood (a descendant of human travelers from another realm) and the Spindleblade Andry protects to stop Taristan from bringing ruin to the realm. Dom seeks Cortael’s secret daughter, Corayne, a bright but sheltered teenager with a pirate mother. At times the narrative tension is undermined by flashbacks that readers already know the conclusions to and by occasional repetition caused by the multiple point-of-view jumps, but there’s a wide variety of action scenes, daring escapes, and betrayals. Many tropes and character types are familiar, but exquisite descriptions and clashing motivations result in a nuanced, sprawling realm with a sense of complicated history. This world is highly diverse in terms of both skin tone and in the refreshing range of roles female characters inhabit.

An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287262-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A slo-mo environmental disaster story.

THE NATURE OF WITCHES

Weather witches confront climate change in this fantasy.

Clara Densmore is her generation’s sole Everwitch and is unwilling to embrace her powers. Unlike the male and female autumn, winter, spring, and summer witches, whose powers peak during their respective seasons, Clara thrives year-round. At the Eastern School of Solar Magic in Pennsylvania, 17-year-old Clara shuns friendships and only does short-term flings, as her love can be lethal and has already killed her parents and best friend. Losing her powers seems like the selfless solution, but nonmagical shaders have pushed the planet too far with their environmental destruction. Seasonal witches are starting to die amid accelerated natural disasters—and only Clara can save the world. A budding romance with magical mentor/visiting botany student 18-year-old Sang Park from California helps Clara bloom. Redheaded, blue-eyed Clara is cued as White, and Sang is Korean American—but race, class, and other identity-related concerns are rarely a factor in this world. Debut author Griffin unfortunately fails to breathe new life into chosen one fantasy tropes—the obligatory villain, the unavoidable romance, the overly dramatic sacrifice—but excels at lush and lovely descriptions of nature and the weather and delivers a stern, if heavy-handed, message about environmental consequences of modern living.

A slo-mo environmental disaster story. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72822-942-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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