Occasional sparks of inspiration fail to kindle a sodden heap of anemic roles and tropes.

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A TALE OF LIGHT AND SHADOW

From the Tale of Light and Shadow series , Vol. 1

Young lovers flee the clutches of a scheming emperor in this ponderous series opener.

Gowans threads his tale with disguised Christian elements, though he’s no C.S. Lewis. Henry—master carpenter and peacemaker, stubbornly loyal to friends even after they betray him—dramatically rescues his drugged sweetheart, Isabelle, who has been sold to a sinister visiting ruler from an adjacent country by her despicable father. He then rides for the border with four contentious allies and a fortune in gold coins. The fugitives’ most persistent problems prove to be not their inept pursuers but their own moral failings. Amid constant arguments and sharpening suspicion, the gold begins to disappear, various members sneak away on mysterious errands, several harbor hinted-at secrets, and one turns out to be a traitor. Along with being light on suspense and ambling of pace, this epic features a poorly realized setting and a cast in which not only do certain minor characters show more facets than major ones, but the women do little aside from coming along, needing rescue or, following a climactic ambush, being paraded in a cage. The end leaves the company scattered, but the internecine conflict at least is resolved as two members beg to be forgiven their trespasses and at least one gets a kiss of peace.

Occasional sparks of inspiration fail to kindle a sodden heap of anemic roles and tropes. (free prequel available for download) (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60907-872-0

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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