A sketchy, underthought epic, as mannered and artificial as the illustrations.

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THE TRILOGY OF TWO

In this ambitious debut, two preteen circus musicians visit hidden worlds and uncover not only family secrets, but a scheme to rob this world’s children of all their talents.

It’s unclear whether the title refers to this doorstopper episode’s three sections or (daunting thought) promised sequels. The tale is set in a dystopic world in which the oceans have somehow evaporated and garbage-strewn Outskirts surround walled cities that tower a thousand stories high. It sends impulsive Charlotte and her repressed twin, Sonja, on a double quest to rescue kidnapped Tatty Tatters, the tattooed lady who has lovingly raised them, and also to recover their magical musical talent—golden globs of which have been literally sucked from their ears by a malign cat. Visits ensue to a dreary megacity to see factories full of similarly robbed children and also to several Narnia-like magic lands to enlist aid from their residents. Malouf offers such requisite elements as an old prophecy, magical talismans, and nonhuman allies (adolescent shape-changers, in this case) to help with escapes and comic relief and a climactic battle that is as poorly choreographed as it is arbitrary. In addition, she tricks her tale out with dozens of vignettes and cold, if technically accomplished, portraits of figures with remote, enigmatic expressions. Despite all this, the resolution is spectacularly lazy.

A sketchy, underthought epic, as mannered and artificial as the illustrations. (Fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17114-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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THE LIGHTNING THIEF

From the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series , Vol. 1

Edgar Award–winning Riordan leaves the adult world of mystery to begin a fantasy series for younger readers. Twelve-year-old Percy (full name, Perseus) Jackson has attended six schools in six years. Officially diagnosed with ADHD, his lack of self-control gets him in trouble again and again. What if it isn’t his fault? What if all the outrageous incidents that get him kicked out of school are the result of his being a “half-blood,” the product of a relationship between a human and a Greek god? Could it be true that his math teacher Mrs. Dodds transformed into a shriveled hag with bat wings, a Fury, and was trying to kill him? Did he really vanquish her with a pen that turned into a sword? One need not be an expert in Greek mythology to enjoy Percy’s journey to retrieve Zeus’s master bolt from the Underworld, but those who are familiar with the deities and demi-gods will have many an ah-ha moment. Along the way, Percy and his cohort run into Medusa, Cerberus and Pan, among others. The sardonic tone of the narrator’s voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty. (Fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-5629-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise.

WHERE SHE FELL

A teenager battles social anxiety disorder and giant bugs in a subterranean world.

When two bad friends to whom she’s been clinging trick her into venturing into the ominously named Drowners Swamp, Eliza falls into a sinkhole that leads into a seemingly endless cave system. Being an avid fan of caves and geology, Eliza is as enthralled as she is terrified—a mix of emotions that remains unaltered as she encounters a small community of likewise trapped people surviving on a diet of outsized spiders and cave insects. Weeks later she is captured (briefly, thanks to a conveniently timed spider attack) by bioluminescent humanoids. All the while, despite having been in therapy for years, she continually denigrates herself for panic attacks and freezing up around others. Her emotional reactions take up so much of the narrative, in fact, that for all its lurid, occasionally gruesome turns, it’s hard to tell whether character or action drives the story more. In the event, Eliza is surprised to find reserves of inner strength—and a chance at personal transformation—through her ordeal. The first-person narration is punctuated with excerpts and sketches from Eliza’s journal. Except for one character with brown skin, the nonglowing cast defaults to white. Warring themes and elements give this outing a distinct feel of multiple stories yoked together by violence.

Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise. (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-23007-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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