While the Disney-esque tale feels saccharine at times, the fast-paced, eventful plot will appeal to younger readers who are...

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RUBY ROCKSPARKLE

HER WILDLY INCREDIBLE ADVENTURE

Loftus’ young adult novel creates a fantasy world of good kings, evil witches and happily-ever-afters.

Ruby Rocksparkle and her family, all named after gemstones, are poor farmers in the happy kingdom of Felicitania. After a carriage accident brings the injured king to their doorstep, the family experiences a positive change in fortune. Meanwhile, the vain Queen Morgana wants to ensure her status as the loveliest woman in the kingdom by enlisting the aid of an evil witch to eliminate the competition. Ruby is captured, along with several of her sisters, but manages to escape and, dressed as a boy, accompanies the prince on his journey to a neighboring kingdom. They have many adventures along the way, resulting in the triumph of justice, true love and a royal wedding. Using tried-and-true plot points and stock characters, Loftus creates a sweet, wholesome story of benevolent royalty and honest peasants, including a glossary to help young readers. It’s not entirely clear where the story supposedly takes place—characters reference China and Beethoven, implying that they are in our reality, but the world also has many fantastical elements that are more at home in a traditional fairy tale. There are a few other problematic elements as well, such as when Ruby is captured by Arab bandits who, in turn, sell her to a sultan as part of his harem. While this theme might have been appropriate in less culturally sensitive times, nowadays the incident suggests an adult situation that may be best left out of a children’s tale. And while the writing style is clear and readable, at times the prose relies too heavily on contemporary slang, confusing the reader as to both the period and the setting of the work.

While the Disney-esque tale feels saccharine at times, the fast-paced, eventful plot will appeal to younger readers who are able to suspend their disbelief and enter a nicer world than our own.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-1452059785

Page Count: 243

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2011

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

A DEADLY EDUCATION

From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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