Tailor-made for readers who prefer their coming-of-age fantasies thick, straightforward of plot, and unencumbered by...

THE BELL BETWEEN WORLDS

From the Mirror Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A preteen with a hidden heritage runs from slavering Ghorhund and into the arms of his destiny when a huge bell that few can hear summons him to a parallel world.

Urged on by mysterious allies and hotly pursued by a giant black dog, Sylas is transported from a modern slum to another realm where the land looks the same but the people have a different history and practice four different kinds of magic. There, he falls in with the nearly exterminated adherents of the Fourth Way, which cooperates with nature rather than forcibly altering it like the other three, and becomes the object of a massive hunt by legions of bestial creatures made by Thoth, last and foulest of the ruling Priests of Souls. Why? Because according to an oblique prophecy, if Sylas can find his Glimmer, his other-world counterpart, he may reunite the two sundered planes. Along with folding in missing parents, coded writings, giant eagles and other comfortably familiar elements, Johnstone rarely breaks from a single storyline in this opener for (inevitably) a planned trilogy. Moreover, with the exception of one character playing a double game, he neatly divides the large supporting cast between warm, loyal, charismatic good guys and malformed, malign baddies. Stay tuned.

Tailor-made for readers who prefer their coming-of-age fantasies thick, straightforward of plot, and unencumbered by complications or moral conundrums. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-00-749122-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: HarperCollins 360

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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AKATA WITCH

Who can't love a story about a Nigerian-American 12-year-old with albinism who discovers latent magical abilities and saves the world? Sunny lives in Nigeria after spending the first nine years of her life in New York. She can't play soccer with the boys because, as she says, "being albino made the sun my enemy," and she has only enemies at school. When a boy in her class, Orlu, rescues her from a beating, Sunny is drawn in to a magical world she's never known existed. Sunny, it seems, is a Leopard person, one of the magical folk who live in a world mostly populated by ignorant Lambs. Now she spends the day in mundane Lamb school and sneaks out at night to learn magic with her cadre of Leopard friends: a handsome American bad boy, an arrogant girl who is Orlu’s childhood friend and Orlu himself. Though Sunny's initiative is thin—she is pushed into most of her choices by her friends and by Leopard adults—the worldbuilding for Leopard society is stellar, packed with details that will enthrall readers bored with the same old magical worlds. Meanwhile, those looking for a touch of the familiar will find it in Sunny's biggest victories, which are entirely non-magical (the detailed dynamism of Sunny's soccer match is more thrilling than her magical world saving). Ebulliently original. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-01196-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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