HALF-WITCH

Not for everyone, but readers who appreciate powerful female friendships and sui generis whimsy will cherish it.

Even a fantasy world strictly conforming to medieval Christian cosmology cannot withstand an unlikely friendship between human and witch in a picaresque middle-grade debut.

After 14 years fleeing across the Holy Roman Empire, Lizbet Lenz has learned to avoid attachments. Yet when her ne’er-do-well father finally lands in jail, she’s ready to beg help from anyone: margraves, witches, God (with whom she has regular, literal, if one-sided conversations). Only Strix, a witch girl crafted from leaves and rubbish, is willing to aid Lizbet’s desperate venture across the impassable Montagnes du Monde; unfortunately, that assistance may be turning Lizbet herself into a witch. In this wildly imaginative alternative Europe, the delicately evolving relationship between kindhearted, pious, fiercely determined, and achingly lonely Lizbet (“fair-skinned, like most northern folk”) and surly, bellicose, but resourceful Strix (“the brown of autumn leaves”) provides a sweet counterpoint to a tale otherwise teeming with selfishness, violence, and cruelty, where even heaven fails before the legions of hell. This last plotline, played at first for mordant (and potentially blasphemous) humor, subtly coalesces all the seemingly unrelated episodes until they suddenly transmogrify into a climax that’s genuinely thrilling, unexpectedly poignant, and oddly reverent. As Lizbet and Strix together realize their individual identities and agency, even greater joint adventures beckon.

Not for everyone, but readers who appreciate powerful female friendships and sui generis whimsy will cherish it. (Fantasy. 10-16)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61873-140-1

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Big Mouth House

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2014

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