Findlay’s debut is a fantasy full of horses and magic. Syeira, an orphan who is probably about ten, lives in the stables where she works all day and much of the night. Arwin, an Arva horse, one of a wild and powerful breed, forms an attachment to Syeira and through scent can place images in her mind. When the evil warlord Ran steals Arwin’s colts, Syeira and Arwin go in search of them. On a long and complicated journey, they meet gypsies, hacklers (master horsemen), herbsmen, and Grulla, the fighting crone. While each of these does advance the story, they tend to disappear when their part is done, occasionally returning to round out a plot line. Eventually, Syeira comes to where Ran is experimenting with hot air balloons (called warboys) and with making mechanical fighting horses. There Syeira finds the colts and plots to free them. After more complications and a terrifying capture, her victory is secured by the sudden appearance of winged horses only hinted at throughout the narrative. Further reflections about the power of dreams and memory will be lost on younger readers eagerly following the horse lore, which is rich and colorful, but the quest will still carry them along. (author note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-439-62752-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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Twelve-year-old Onion Jock’s grandfather made a fortune inventing a golf-course–cleaning contraption and now runs his own 13-hole course, his barber father rebels against the system by discouraging haircuts and his brother is a finance-obsessed pugilist. When well-monied individuals from Grampus’s past arrive, Jock realizes that his odd family relationships are more twisted than he thought. With little more than a brogue pronunciation as a clue, readers are left to guess at Jock’s geographical location, which creates a rarely bridged emotional gap. Jock’s narrative disposition is reminiscent of Christopher from Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2003), but Jock’s own behavioral discrepancies have no apparent underlying causes. Moments of genuine humor shine, but most of the tale’s message—of the burden of possessions—seems better suited for a younger audience than the one it apparently aims for. Andi Watson’s Clubbing (2007) blends oddball humor and golf much more successfully. This uneven mixture of relationships and sports is a bogey for the usually reliable Lynch. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-074034-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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Weak writing ruins a nicely structured integration of Arthurian legend with a Grimm’s fairy tale. Rowena’s locked up with her 11 sisters because her father’s afraid that they’ll disappear like their mother, Vivienne, the Lady of the Lake. Each night they disappear underground, where dancing destroys their elegant slippers. Elsewhere, Sir Bedivere promises a dying King Arthur to return Excalibur to Vivienne. Bedivere and Rowena share reciprocal mystical visions in which they fall in love. The sisters’ nightly dancing, as well as their goal of finding their lost mother, leads to the same enchanted underground lake as Bedivere’s task of honor. Details of “Twelve Dancing Princesses” are skillfully woven in with the Camelot plot; however, the text is cluttered with modifiers, the narration is unsubtle and trite and the workings of magic are shallow. Instead, see Vivian Vande Velde’s Book of Mordred (July 2005) and Dia Calhoun’s Phoenix Dance (October 2005). (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-4169-0579-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2005

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