The Adventures of Horace, George and Ingle

THE RISE OF THE BLACK KNIGHT

In this debut middle-grade fantasy tale, the first in a series, three brothers set out on a quest to uncover the identity of a magical arsonist and protect their homeland from a sinister scheme.
The kingdom of Galray is a typical, old-school fantasy realm, in which knights spar, dragons soar, and women are few and far between. When a freak lightning storm sets the nearest village ablaze with an unquenchable flame, King Reynold suspects foul play, so he enlists his three sons to track down the perpetrator and determine his motives. His eldest son, Ingle, and twins Horace and George think they have a lead, as they spied a shadowy figure skulking around the castle tower on the night of the storm. Now they must trek through Galray and other, more distant lands to seek the Oracle of the mountain, who they believe can direct them to the truth. Along the way, they get cryptic advice from gnomish trickster Rifflesly and encounter a rogue ice dragon who might be the key to solving the mystery. It’s a story as straightforward as a role-playing-game campaign, and Cumming provides clean, effective prose throughout. It reads like a well-designed Dungeons & Dragons session, and like D&D heroes, the brothers are defined more by their skills, such as their sharp senses, than by their personalities. Similarly, the supporting cast is as two-dimensional as the book’s black-and-white illustrations. The drawings’ cartoonish simplicity identifies the novel as one meant for the younger set, as does the shape-shifting Rifflesly, Cumming’s version of the Cheshire Cat. His eccentric speech patterns and riddles may frustrate or delight readers, but they may wonder why he or the Oracle would bother to help the brothers. It’s equally hard to grasp the motivations of the villain, the Black Knight, but perhaps the author will explore his psyche further in the sequel.

A lightweight, pleasant adventure for younger readers, featuring derring-do but little psychological depth.

Pub Date: June 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1460238455

Page Count: 144

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2014

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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An entertaining adventure with villains, heroes, and tantalizing mysteries galore.

WINTERBORNE HOME FOR VENGEANCE AND VALOR

From the Winterborne series , Vol. 1

Ten years ago, Gabriel Winterborne, dramatically orphaned in childhood and heir to a vast fortune, mysteriously vanished; the five parentless children now living at Winterborne House may hold keys to his disappearance.

After accidentally setting a museum exhibit on fire, April, foundling, foster child, and group-home veteran, is rescued and hospitalized. She accepts an invitation from Isabella “Izzy” Nelson, Winterborne Foundation director, to live at Winterborne House—for now. (April’s mother had left a note—plus an ornate key—with infant April, promising to return for her.) Fellow child recruits include Violet, a timid artist; Tim, Violet’s foster brother and protector; and, already ensconced in the enormous mansion poised at cliff’s edge above the ocean, Sadie, an imaginative inventor; and Colin, a former Londoner with street smarts. All are under the care of Smithers, the Winterborne butler, and Izzy. Living in a smaller mansion nearby is Evert Winterborne, Gabriel’s uncle, who’s offered a reward for news of Gabriel. On a dark and stormy night, the girls awaken to a knife-wielding presence who steals April’s key. Mysteries mount rapidly: Who, or what, is the Phantom that so terrifies Violet? What caused Izzy’s antipathy to Gabriel? Among this likable bunch (race varied but unspecified, though April presents white on the cover), deadpan April’s a standout. If the corkscrew plot’s occasionally far-fetched, it’s fast moving and surprise-filled, guaranteed to have readers racing on to the next deliciously gothic complication.

An entertaining adventure with villains, heroes, and tantalizing mysteries galore. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-00319-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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