Another entertaining action-adventure installment, albeit one with a few too many plot strands.

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LEGENDS OF THE RIF

From the Red Hand Adventures series , Vol. 3

In O’Neill’s (Wrath of the Caid, 2014, etc.) third volume of his YA Red Hand Adventures series, the Moroccan resistance prepares to battle a power-hungry warlord who’s allied himself with the French army.

Tough orphan Tariq has already helped Australian adventurer and hot air balloonist Melbourne Jack obtain the secret diary of Alexander the Great. Now Jack wants to return the favor and help Tariq and his friends plan their final showdown with the evil Caid Ali Tamzali, a warlord who won’t stop until he’s become the sultan of Morocco. The Caid has made a deal with the French Foreign Legion in order to take advantage of its superior numbers and weaponry. Jack tells Tariq the legend of the Red Hand Scrolls—powerful revelations that have only been secretly shared with a few trusted scholars. Deep in the jungle of Ceylon, someone evil is using the scrolls to plant seeds of conflict, which will grow into the biggest battle that the world has ever seen. Meanwhile, English preteen Margaret has discovered that her father, Col. Charles Owen, is being held in Marseilles as an accused pirate, and back in London, her mother, Louise, is risking everything to clear his name. O’Neill takes his usual mixture of high-stakes action, intricate historical detail and complex character back story and cranks it up an extra notch. But although the previous two books merely verged on overwhelming, this one definitely feels bloated. By the time the book relates the life stories of the mysterious Foster Crowe, who runs the circus that raised Jack; and Inez, Margaret’s French schoolmate, readers may be tired of meeting new people and ready to get on with the story. The long-awaited showdown between the resistance and the Caid’s forces manages to live up to lofty expectations. However, instead of ending on that note, O’Neill begins new storylines related to pre–World War I unrest. This feels somewhat anticlimactic after the big battle, but it may lead to an exciting, educational next book in the series.

Another entertaining action-adventure installment, albeit one with a few too many plot strands.

Pub Date: April 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0985196981

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Black Ship Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2015

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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE SKELETON ROAD

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 6

The monster-fighting gang from Wakefield departs on a post-apocalyptic road trip.

In this sixth installment of the heavily illustrated, Netflix-adapted series, quirky Jack Sullivan and his friends June, Quint, and Dirk finally leave their creature-ridden town in search of the ultimate baddie, Thrull, who previously deceived them. The quartet takes their tricked-out ride (an armored RV named Bad Mama) onto the open road (with Jack’s Zombie Squad in tow) to find the Outpost, where they believe a certain monster will be able to give them the location of the evil Tower where they believe Thrull now resides. Of course, the journey is littered with all kinds of nightmarish beasts and pitfalls (including an epic water park battle and slime-dripping baby monster), but the kids persist, armed with their endless gadgets and quick thinking. As the group races toward Thrull, the action culminates with an achingly tantalizing cliffhanger; expect audible groans and vociferous demands for the next installment. Fans of this series will revel in this fast-paced escapade with its recognizable black-and-white illustrations and trademark humor. Readers new to the series or those who are only familiar with the animated show may be a bit put off by this later volume that relies heavily on its own language of monsters and weapons. Jack, June, and Dirk are light-skinned; Quint is dark-skinned.

Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger. (Graphic fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984835-34-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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