Beaucoup magic and entertainment with just the right amount of educational value.

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Divide et Impera

From the Magicae Mathematica series , Vol. 3

This third installment of a middle-grade fantasy series finds a girl and a city threatened by a wizard wielding a powerful and potentially deadly weapon.

Alex is a young girl who was mysteriously transported to a world where Latin and mathematics are combined to generate magic. With her mentor Archimedes in prison, she’s hiding in the wilderness outside the city, especially because fiendish Master Wizards Diades and Demetrius are looking for her. Though Alex is skilled at magic, Archimedes believes she’s the “missing variable,” with the ability to solve this world’s problems. Alex eventually meets winged Daedalus, who takes her to the Iron Mountains, where former advisers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle have isolated themselves following accusations of poisoning the king. Unfortunately, Alex’s calculator is in the hands of Diades, and its mathematical capability makes the device inherently dangerous. Indeed, the wizard uses it to create a disaster that leaves the city in ruins and many of the inhabitants dead. Survivors form a party for an arduous trek through the woods to the Iron Mountains. There, they hope to reunite with Alex and make their way to the Master Wizards’ black castle to retrieve the device. Alex, meanwhile, under the assumption that all of her pals in the city have perished, concocts a similar plan. As in the previous novels, West’s (Circulus de Potentia, 2016, etc.) blending of Latin and math serves the story well, enhancing rather than sidelining the main plot. Diades, for example, torments his captive, Pythagoras, by using the device to calculate the number of people who’ve died in the tragedy. Latin phrases are most often conveniently translated (for example, by characters who’ve uttered them) and are sometimes profound on their own: “dum spiro, spero. While I breathe, I hope.” West adds his own effervescent descriptions as well (“the monster brought the blackness like an oily cloud that spread over everything hungrily”). Supporting characters stand out, including deaf Maya, a worthy counterpart to her blind brother, Mada, while others face hazards such as wolves and a blizzard. There’s no resolution or climax in sight, but the ending should definitely have readers keeping eyes out for the fourth volume.

Beaucoup magic and entertainment with just the right amount of educational value.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5368-6202-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2016

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly...

THE GIVER

From the Giver Quartet series , Vol. 1

In a radical departure from her realistic fiction and comic chronicles of Anastasia, Lowry creates a chilling, tightly controlled future society where all controversy, pain, and choice have been expunged, each childhood year has its privileges and responsibilities, and family members are selected for compatibility.

As Jonas approaches the "Ceremony of Twelve," he wonders what his adult "Assignment" will be. Father, a "Nurturer," cares for "newchildren"; Mother works in the "Department of Justice"; but Jonas's admitted talents suggest no particular calling. In the event, he is named "Receiver," to replace an Elder with a unique function: holding the community's memories—painful, troubling, or prone to lead (like love) to disorder; the Elder ("The Giver") now begins to transfer these memories to Jonas. The process is deeply disturbing; for the first time, Jonas learns about ordinary things like color, the sun, snow, and mountains, as well as love, war, and death: the ceremony known as "release" is revealed to be murder. Horrified, Jonas plots escape to "Elsewhere," a step he believes will return the memories to all the people, but his timing is upset by a decision to release a newchild he has come to love. Ill-equipped, Jonas sets out with the baby on a desperate journey whose enigmatic conclusion resonates with allegory: Jonas may be a Christ figure, but the contrasts here with Christian symbols are also intriguing.

Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly provocative novel. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 978-0-395-64566-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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