Readers looking for rebooted mythology should stick with Rick Riordan. (Paranormal adventure. 10 & up)

THE DEATH CATCHERS

Faced with the essential paradox of prophecy—if you see the future, can you change it?—14-year-old Lizzy Mortimer races to save the people whose deaths she foresees and prevent Doomsday in this uneven modern-day Arthurian tale.

Like all the women on her father’s side, Lizzy sees her first “death-specter” at the age of 14. Understandably upset, Lizzy finds help from her aphorism-spouting, Creole spice–loving Grandma Bizzy. When feuding enchantresses from Avalon start appearing in the twee coastal town of Crabapple, Calif., searching for the Last Descendent, Lizzy uncovers the Arthurian origins of her “Hand of Fate” and the high stakes for her amateur sleuthing. Lizzy comes off as younger than 14, even when crushing on high-school senior Drake Westfall, and high-school issues such as bullying, learning disabilities and overbearing/abusive parents receive a heavy-handed treatment. Spunky Bizzy outshines less well-developed characters, but Lizzy begins to blossom in the last few pages. The novel is written as a make-up final paper for English class, with literary techniques—transitions, setting and climax—explained in each chapter, and this framing device distracts from the central action. Despite a robbery subplot and an increasing number of rules about Lizzy’s new “gift,” foreshadowing is rampant and the end predictable.

Readers looking for rebooted mythology should stick with Rick Riordan. (Paranormal adventure. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8027-2184-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A second volume that sets the scene for more to come.

DEFEND THE DAWN

From the Defy the Night series , Vol. 2

As the Moonflower supply in Kandala dwindles, a ship arrives with a trade opportunity in this follow-up to Defy the Night (2021).

Moonflowers are critical for an elixir that cures the fever sickness. Prior to his assassination, King Lucas of Kandala sent a spy to neighboring Ostriary, whose connection with Kandala had been severed. Now Capt. Rian Blakemore arrives in Kandala claiming to be the spy’s son, offering Moonflowers in exchange for steel, and inviting a delegation to meet with the Ostrian king. Tessa Cade, outlaw-turned–royal apothecary, is eager to go. Since the invasion of the Royal Sector, Kandala’s King Harristan has attempted to negotiate better distribution of Moonflower petals to the poorer districts, but tension among the rebels, consuls, and royals has stalled progress. An alternate supply of Moonflowers would buy time for Tessa to find another cure. Her hope is countered by the cynicism of the King’s Justice, Prince Corrick. Nevertheless, he boards Blakemore’s ship along with Tessa and rebel leader Lochlan Cresswell. As Tessa and Corrick try to discern hidden motives and a possible trap, they reexamine their relationship, which gets tested by the mysterious captain. Chapters told in alternating perspectives draw out the plot at a measured pace, ending with a series of shocking revelations. The structure results in introspective accounts following different concurrent events, slowing the story’s forward momentum. Characters have varying skin tones.

A second volume that sets the scene for more to come. (map, cast of characters) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5476-1007-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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