The story recalls Lloyd Alexander at his wry, humane best; readers will be happy for every moment they spend at castle...

DRAGON CASTLE

Noted Native American storyteller and author Bruchac turns to the Slovakian side of his family heritage to produce an entirely fresh and funny fantasy.

All his life, 15-year-old Rashko has suffered his family of fools: his absent-minded, naive father, his terminally innocent mother and especially his permanently happy, utterly simple older brother. His mental superiority is put to the test when, his parents inexplicably absent, the evil Baron Temny arrives at family castle with a small army. His brother is instantly enchanted (literally) by the Baron's oily "daughter," so it's up to Rashko to thwart the Baron and save their tiny domain. Bruchac intersperses Rashko's story with that of his long-ago ancestor, Pavol, who fought a dragon and defeated the Dark Lord. Readers will see fairly quickly that Rashko, for all his vaunted intellect, gives those around him far too little credit. Before the story's out, he will need the assistance of the many endearingly quirky secondary characters that round out the cast, from a couple of wonderful, telepathic wolves and the loyal, preternaturally aware family retainer to a pair of dashing jugglers. Rashko's wry voice reveals a teen whose sense of self-importance is balanced healthily by a goodhearted, winning decency.

The story recalls Lloyd Alexander at his wry, humane best; readers will be happy for every moment they spend at castle Hladka Hvorka. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 9, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3376-3

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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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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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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