A fun fantasy adventure, but one that can’t be read as a stand-alone work.

READ REVIEW

Rattleman

From the The Gates of Inland series , Vol. 3

The third title in Rosegrant’s (Kintravel, 2014, etc.) fantasy series brings the heroes face to face with a dangerous adversary.

This installment of the Gates of Inland series picks up where the last left off, with the human Dan endeavoring to get himself and his fairy girlfriend, Maggie, back to Inland. Complicating the plan is Sister, a villainous girl who was taken to Inland in Maggie’s place as a child. Sister has learned magic and plans to destroy Maggie, Dan, and much of Inland if she can learn Maggie’s True Name. As in previous books, Dan travels between Inland and Outland, and as he attempts to weaken Sister and continue his own quest to find the legendary First Changing Beast, he also tries to reunite Sister with her real mother, who raised and abused Maggie. He journeys to New York City with Graciela, where Sister seems to be using the local museums to create portals and draw power to herself, and he meets old friends in Inland, who inform him of a prophecy. Meanwhile, Maggie’s mother speaks to a mysterious being called Rattleman, and Dan’s therapist exhibits suspicious behavior. This volume is as action-packed as previous titles in the series: Dan always has something to do, someone to meet, and somewhere new to go. As a result, there’s little time for reflection. Something’s bound to catch up with Dan in the next installment, as this one ends with only a few loose ends tied up; the subplots involving Sister and the First Changing Beast, for example, are still very much unresolved. This entry also can’t be read without the first two, as the series as a whole reads more like one long book than as distinct parts. As long as readers keep this in mind, though, they’ll find Dan’s adventure entertaining, and there’s plenty of suspense and intrigue for those who go along for the ride.

A fun fantasy adventure, but one that can’t be read as a stand-alone work.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5193-7055-6

Page Count: 274

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

MALICE

This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Familiar territory plumbed afresh; fantasy fans should be pleased.

A GIFT OF POISON

From the The Kingmakers' War series , Vol. 1

A girl who has been dismissed and distrusted for most of her life must prove herself in this quest novel.

Briand Varryda dresses like a boy and is the unwanted ward of her uncle. Denied education and often even food, she realizes that her only friends are her cousin Bran and, sometimes, the soldier Tibus. Briand can look after herself: She’s good with a knife and light on her feet. But this time, she’s in real trouble. Briand has cleaned out one soldier too many at the card game Dubbok. When Tibus saves her from vengeful pursuers, he has no choice but to then turn her over to Kael, steward of her uncle’s castle—who has a reputation for cruelty and who, with the help of Bran’s loathsome tutor, Nath, is conducting secret experiments involving young noblemen and poisonous snakes. Kael gives her one last chance. Briand tries to go straight; she attempts to do the right thing. But when she intervenes in one of Kael’s experiments, she gets more than she bargained for. By passing a test meant for Bran, Briand becomes a “dragonsayer,” with “the ability to speak to and sometimes control animals of magic, particularly dragons.” From despised guttersnipe, she has now risen to being the kingdom’s last hope against the usurper prince and his deadly Seekers—but that’s no reason for her companions to think any better of her. In this short novel, Ellison (With Tide and Tempest, 2014, etc.) takes fantasy tropes and makes them feel original. The same achievement can be seen in characterization. Briand and all the others are easily recognizable types but still seem unique. Briand, in particular, is somehow not the typical orphan who makes good. This is made possible by the author’s no-nonsense prose and pacing and some astute worldbuilding. The necessary background details (with the exception of some that find their way into speech) are foreshadowed rather than dumped. This allows Briand to forge her own path and for the story to grip and take hold. Although this is the first book in a series, the plot is largely self-contained. Readers will be left with closure but still wanting more.

Familiar territory plumbed afresh; fantasy fans should be pleased.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5028-7264-7

Page Count: 286

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

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