Even readers on their own 14th rereads of the series will find new insights to ponder.

DUMBLEDORE

THE LIFE AND LIES OF HOGWARTS'S RENOWNED HEADMASTER: AN UNOFFICIAL EXPLORATION

Albus Dumbledore: saintly mentor and protector of young wizards or ruthless Machiavellian manipulator?

In this edition of a previously self-published collection of essays gathered from his columns on the fan website MuggleNet, Khaytman spins hints in the texts and purely speculative notions together into a broad view of what Hogwarts’ headmaster knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it in his campaign to quash He Who Must Not Be Named. Even though he opens with a key to the jargon, readers who can’t keep SS (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) separate from QA (Quidditch Through the Ages) or easily distinguish Quirrellmort from Cupcrux will struggle to keep up as he minutely analyzes Dumbledore’s influence in events through each of the seven original HPs in turn. Khaytman writes that he reread the series 14 times but freely acknowledges ideas contributed by fellow fan critics both as he goes and, in greater detail, in an annotated bibliography. In the end, though, some of what Dumbledore did—or what he surmises Dumbledore must have done—creates a dilemma for readers, and the author ultimately leaves him, for all his scheming ways and imperfections, on the side of the angels. Dumbledore’s sexuality does not come up nor, aside from a reference drawn from DH to his character’s being “white as his beard,” does his race. Three appendices further explore the canon.

Even readers on their own 14th rereads of the series will find new insights to ponder. (Literary criticism. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948174-78-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Media Lab Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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