A good balance between dark action and emotional costs.

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GRIMALKIN THE WITCH ASSASSIN

From the Last Apprentice series , Vol. 9

This installment deviates from The Last Apprentice's usual formula, following witch assassin Grimalkin instead of Spook's apprentice Thomas Ward after the events of Rage of the Fallen (2011).

The Fiend has been bound but not killed, so his servants seek to restore him. To prevent this, Grimalkin took his decapitated head with her—it must be reunited with the bound body for the Fiend to rise again. Narrated by Grimalkin rather than presented as Tom's writing, the story is in present tense. The immediacy ratchets up tension as increasing numbers of powerful dark servants pursue Grimalkin. Although the legendary witch assassin is among the best killers to ever have lived, she is endangered by a kretch, a she-wolf/demon hybrid created by dark-magic users specifically to kill her. Forced to seek help, stubbornly self-reliant Grimalkin leaves a path of violent devastation among her allies wherever she goes, making painful sacrifices to thwart the Fiend while Tom seeks ways to kill him. The narration and short, free-verse poems at the beginning of each chapter give a complex look into Grimalkin's peculiar thought processes, and her history is unveiled through the personal stories her protégé enjoys hearing time and again. While her voice differs greatly from the familiar Tom's, the closer look makes her all the more intriguing.

A good balance between dark action and emotional costs. (Fantasy. 11-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-208207-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

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 31, 2014

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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