Light on action, and heavy on witty banter, this prequel series kickoff is more for confirmed fans than those just coming to...

THE TOURNAMENT AT GORLAN

From the Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years series , Vol. 1

Lord Morgarath, the baron of Gorlan Fief, has been systematically dismantling the Ranger Corps, a band of soldiers appointed to protect the kingdom of Araluen.

Crowley, a young Ranger, and Halt, a wicked bowman with a mysterious history, decide to re-establish the corps. However, with the king hiding in Castle Gorlan under the dubious protection of Morgarath, their only hope is Prince Duncan. Unfortunately, if the rumors are to be believed, the prince is too busy leading parties of drunken soldiers on illegal raids to be bothered with the business of ruling. However, Halt and Crowley soon learn that Morgarath’s plan is far more complicated than they first surmised. Soon their goal is to save not only the corps, but the entire kingdom of Araluen. Flanagan revisits his epic series by exploring its early days. Halt is not yet a Ranger, Will is still just an orphan, and any romance between Halt and Pauline is only just beginning. Jousting, sword fighting, and subterfuge are all business as usual for Rangers, but Crowley and Halt manage it with a hearty helping of sarcasm and humor. This origin story is richly detailed and carefully planned but slow-moving.

Light on action, and heavy on witty banter, this prequel series kickoff is more for confirmed fans than those just coming to know the Rangers. (Adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-16361-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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