CRYSTAL MASK

Roberts (Spellfall, 2001, etc.) returns to the fantastic world she created for Song Quest, but fails to include any likable inhabitants. Twenty years have passed at the Echorium, where the Songs of Power keep the peace, when Shaiala, a wild girl raised by centaurs, is brought for treatment. The apprentice Singer Renn reluctantly uses his ability to communicate with magical Half Creatures to uncover her suppressed memories hinting that black “khizcrystal” is again being used for sinister purposes. Despite their annoying bickering, the two young people join a perilous expedition to the lands of the Horselords to confront this danger, never dreaming that they will need to join forces to overcome the evil that lurks ahead. Song-based magic, while hardly an original premise, is skillfully handled, and the Half Creatures are charming entities, although treated disdainfully by most humans. Unfortunately, they are used as little more than triggers for the incomprehensible actions of the unappetizing heroes. Renn is self-centered, petulant, and cowardly; Shaiala is heedless, pigheaded, and shockingly violent; even Kherron, who returns from the first novel to provide adult leadership, is arrogant and abusive. Only Erihan, a Horselord prince who inexplicably befriends Shaiala, is at all appealing; indeed, it is difficult to distinguish heroes and villains on the basis of either their actions or their attitudes. As the final confrontation sputters into an inconclusive anticlimax, the one interesting revelation, which might explain some contradictions, is pointlessly repudiated. Fans of the first book might enjoy the updates on favorite characters; but hardly anyone else will care. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-33864-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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GIRL'S BEST FRIEND

From the Maggie Brooklyn Mysteries series

In this series debut, Maggie Sinclair tracks down a dognapper and solves a mystery about the noises in the walls of her Brooklyn brownstone apartment building. The 12-year-old heroine, who shares a middle name—Brooklyn—with her twin brother, Finn, is juggling two dogwalking jobs she’s keeping secret from her parents, and somehow she attracts the ire of the dogs’ former walker. Maggie tells her story in the first person—she’s self-possessed and likable, even when her clueless brother invites her ex–best friend, now something of an enemy, to their shared 12th birthday party. Maggie’s attention to details helps her to figure out why dogs seem to be disappearing and why there seem to be mice in the walls of her building, though astute readers will pick up on the solution to at least one mystery before Maggie solves it. There’s a brief nod to Nancy Drew, but the real tensions in this contemporary preteen story are more about friendship and boy crushes than skullduggery. Still, the setting is appealing, and Maggie is a smart and competent heroine whose personal life is just as interesting as—if not more than—her detective work. (Mystery. 10-13)

   

 

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 967-1-59990-525-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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