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

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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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences.

REALM BREAKER

When the realm is in danger, only a small band of misfits can save Allward.

An in medias res prologue, told from the point of view of the lone squire accompanying the 12 Companions of the Realm, tosses readers into the thick of a quest. Half the Companions are human heroes and half are immortal Elders; they seek to stop a rogue thief and his wizard accomplice from using a magical Spindle to tear a passage between worlds for nefarious ends. A disastrous battle sends squire Andry fleeing with Cortael’s sword so villain Taristan can’t get his hands on it. Grieving Elder Dom requires both a person of Corblood (a descendant of human travelers from another realm) and the Spindleblade Andry protects to stop Taristan from bringing ruin to the realm. Dom seeks Cortael’s secret daughter, Corayne, a bright but sheltered teenager with a pirate mother. At times the narrative tension is undermined by flashbacks that readers already know the conclusions to and by occasional repetition caused by the multiple point-of-view jumps, but there’s a wide variety of action scenes, daring escapes, and betrayals. Many tropes and character types are familiar, but exquisite descriptions and clashing motivations result in a nuanced, sprawling realm with a sense of complicated history. This world is highly diverse in terms of both skin tone and in the refreshing range of roles female characters inhabit.

An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287262-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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