A fast-paced fantasy for preteens who are ready for something meatier than the average chapter book.

MAX AND THE GATEKEEPER

BOOK I

Like many kids, Max thinks his mandatory summer vacation will be boring. He’s terribly wrong.

Max Rigdon, a strong-willed 12-year-old, was sent to spend the summer with his “crazy” grandfather. Max is angry because his departure will mean losing the starting pitcher position on the baseball team. He’s sure he’s about to have a terrible summer. He’s almost right, although events at Grandpa’s house transpire quite differently than he imagined. Some dark scenes set the stage early: As Max walks from the bus stop to Grandpa’s house, the neighbors chant menacingly at him. Later that night, on his first night away from home, Max has a disturbing nightmare that is something of a premonition. “These things can’t be real. There has to be a logical explanation for all of this,” his new friend Cindy tells him. The explanation, it turns out, is that Max’s grandfather is a gatekeeper, traveling to and from other dimensions, fighting evil and trying to keep it away from this world. But some nasty elements have slipped in, and it’s up to Max, Cindy and Grandpa to right the world and prevent the destruction of life as we know it. While it’s apparent that Grandpa, Max and company are on the right side of the fight, there’s no mention of a higher power or godlike figure; the wars in the various worlds Max visits are being fought over basic concepts such as freedom. By steering clear of religious overtones and mixing a little magic with technology, Max’s story is likely to appeal to many young readers while it avoids offending some of their parents’ sensibilities. Max isn’t fully developed in this first installment in the Gatekeeper series, although he does grow from a somewhat dubious, unwilling participant to an eager protector of the human race. Rather than describing his characters’ thoughts and feelings at length and including great detail in scenes and settings, Cochrane’s writing emphasizes action, which, along with the more fantastical elements, may appeal to reluctant readers.

A fast-paced fantasy for preteens who are ready for something meatier than the average chapter book.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2007

ISBN: 978-0979720208

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Dark Moon Publishing Inc.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

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KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Mark your calendars, this is the next big thing.

BLACK SUN

From the Between Earth and Sky series , Vol. 1

A powerful priest, an outcast seafarer, and a man born to be the vessel of a god come together in the first of Roanhorse’s Between Earth and Sky trilogy.

The winter solstice is coming, and the elite members of the sacred Sky Made clans in the city of Tova are preparing for a great celebration, led by Naranpa, the newly appointed Sun Priest. But unrest is brewing in Carrion Crow, one of the clans. Years ago, a previous Sun Priest feared heresy among the people of Carrion Crow and ordered his mighty Watchers to attack them, a terrible act that stripped the clan of its power for generations. Now, a secretive group of cultists within Carrion Crow believe that their god is coming back to seek vengeance against the Sun Priest, but Naranpa’s enemies are much closer than any resurrected god. Meanwhile, a young sailor named Xiala has been outcast from her home and spends much of her time drowning her sorrows in alcohol in the city of Cuecola. Xiala is Teek, a heritage that brings with it some mysterious magical abilities and deep knowledge of seafaring but often attracts suspicion and fear. A strange nobleman hires Xiala to sail a ship from Cuecola to Tova. Her cargo? A single passenger, Serapio, a strange young man with an affinity for crows and a score to settle with the Sun Priest. Roanhorse’s fantasy world based on pre-Columbian cultures is rich, detailed, and expertly constructed. Between the political complications in Tova, Serapio’s struggle with a great destiny he never asked for, and Xiala’s discovery of abilities she never knew she had, the pages turn themselves. A beautifully crafted setting with complex character dynamics and layers of political intrigue? Perfection.

Mark your calendars, this is the next big thing.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3767-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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