Preoccupied parents, a solitary young girl, talking cats—sound familiar? Unfortunately for debut author West, not only has this been done before, it’s been done better. Still, the premise is intriguing. Magical spectacles enable the wearer to enter the worlds captured in paintings created by an evil, long-dead wizard. “Captured” isn’t just a figure of speech: At least one young boy has been turned into a painted replica of himself. Another painting, that of the wizard’s (also dead) granddaughter, comes creepily to life. In general, though, the action is sluggish and the ominous atmosphere contrived. Characterization is skimpy at best. Olive’s parents adore math. Olive doesn’t. The cats are pompous, imaginative and martial, respectively. Ironically enough, it’s not just the supernatural effects that fail to convince. Would parents, even those utterly obsessed with their own intelligence and interests, really leave their 11-year-old home alone overnight? The fact that they do precipitates Olive’s final confrontation with the wicked wizard. Unfortunately readers probably won’t care much about who wins nor about the possibility of volume two. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3440-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010


From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 1

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012


From the Delphine series , Vol. 2

Less charming than the opener but does feature a thimbleful of moral quandary at its center.

Armed only with her magical sewing needle, foundling mouse Delphine sets out to confront the cruel rat king in this duology closer.

As vicious rat armies pillage the mouse realms in search of her and her pointy, long-hidden treasure, Delphine finds herself waging an inner war that parallels the outer one. According to dusty documents and other reputable sources, the needle’s good powers can be perverted, but she sees no other way except killing to stop evil rat King Midnight. While struggling with a grim determination to go over to the dark side that sets her at odds with her own fundamentally loving nature, Delphine threads her way along with loyal allies past various scrapes—only to come, climactically, face to face with not only her nemesis, but her own past. Moon stitches in flashbacks to fill out the details of a tragic old love triangle that reaches its fruition here and sews her tale up with a return to Château Desjardins just in time for Cinderella’s wedding and a celebratory rodentine ball in the chandelier overhead, and she leaves a fringe of epilogue hinting at further installments to come.

Less charming than the opener but does feature a thimbleful of moral quandary at its center. (secret codes) (Animal fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-368-04833-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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