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From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 7

Following the lead of its six preceding episodes this one may be sprawling, untidy and, particularly in its treatment of...

The epic adventure ends where, and as, it should in this long-awaited heart- (and, predictably, door-) stopping closer. With the entire tale now laid out, it easier to see the themes and qualities that not only bind it into one coherent, humongous saga, but have also so strongly bound millions of readers to its decade-long unfolding.

Many of those themes—the Hero’s Journey, the wonder of magic-working, the cluelessness of grown-ups, the sweet confusion of adolescence—are standard fare in stories for young readers (or readers who remember being young), but Rowling has shown uncommon skill in playing them with and against each other, and also woven them into a darn good bildungsroman, populated by memorable characters and infused with a saving, irrepressible sense of fun. In The Deathly Hallows, she opens with a vintage, riveting escape scene, then sends Harry, Ron and Hermione into a months-long flight from the ascendant and hotly pursuing forces of Lord Voldemort—this journey also becomes a desperate search for the remaining horcruxes that make him unkillable. Allies both known and unexpected gather to help, but it is strength of spirit and character that, particularly in Harry’s case, blossom here after developing throughout the series, carrying these “three teenagers in a tent whose only achievement was not, yet, to be dead,” past hopelessness, sharp divisions and other challenges to a decisive faceoff against a seemingly unconquerable adversary. There is a slow stretch toward the middle as the trio, having passed through a succession of refuges, hides out in the wilderness for some soul searching, but Rowling kicks up the pace in the second half. Strewing the plot with dueling spells, narrow squeaks and multiple corpses, lightening the load with well-placed humor and casting a sharp light on the flaws and graces of her characters, she builds to a suitably huge, compelling and, like illustrator Mary GrandPré’s chapter-head vignettes, stylish climactic battle on the grounds of Hogwarts.

Following the lead of its six preceding episodes this one may be sprawling, untidy and, particularly in its treatment of race and class issues, sometimes disturbingly simplistic—but, taken as a whole, it gives the author’s brilliantly imagined fantasy the grand finish it merits. And along with her recent suggestion that she may, someday, produce a sort of  “Hogmarillion” to tie up all the loose ends, a provocatively sketchy epilogue (presumably a version of that Final Chapter that she claims to have written at the very beginning) here hints that she may not be ready to let go of her creations, just yet.

Pub Date: July 21, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-545-01022-1

Page Count: 759

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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