SPELLFALL

More an idea person than a storyteller, Roberts fails to do justice to a promising premise and cast in this tale of magic and parallel worlds. A bit of litter with an eye-catching shimmer ensnares young Natalie in the schemes of Hawk, a cruel “spellmage” planning to invade the enchanted realm of Earthaven from which he has been exiled, and to infect the huge, intelligent “soultrees” there with a vaguely defined biochemical poison. Roberts trots in a fine array of unicorns, spells, and quarrelsome mages, but she shows no great regard for logical consistency, whether it be a character using a crude word one time for no good reason or layers of complicated rules of magic that require repeated readings to comprehend. With the help of several new allies, including her punk stepbrother and a telepathic white wolf with a Scots accent, Natalie battles the evil mage in a series of ineptly staged confrontations (an army of hundreds that is so close that Natalie can see a “glint of triumph” in the eyes of its rear rank, is driven back by a dozen archers, for instance) that foil Hawk in a way that closes his gate to Earthhaven but leaves one for sequels wide open. The main characters (except for Hawk, who is entirely villainous) do show signs of complexity, but that adds only dashes of flavor to this bland fantasy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-29653-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Like its bestselling progenitors, a nonstop spinoff afroth with high tech, spectacular magic, and silly business.

THE FOWL TWINS

From the Fowl Twins series , Vol. 1

With their big brother Artemis off to Mars, 11-year-old twins Myles and Beckett are swept up in a brangle with murderous humans and even more dangerous magical creatures.

Unsurprisingly, the fraternal Irish twins ultimately prove equal to the challenge—albeit with help from, Colfer as omniscient narrator admits early on, a “hugely improbable finale.” Following the coincidental arrival on their island estate of two denizens of the subterranean fairy realm in the persons of a tiny but fearsome troll and a “hybrid” pixie-elf, or “pixel,” police trainee, the youngest Fowls immediately find themselves in the sights of both Lord Teddy Bleedham-Drye, a ruthless aristocrat out to bag said troll for its immorality-conferring venom, and Sister Jeronima Gonzalez-Ramos de Zárate, black-ops “nunterrogation” and knife specialist for ACRONYM, an intergovernmental fairy-monitoring organization. Amid the ensuing whirl of captures, escapes, trickery, treachery, and gunfire (none of which proves fatal…or at least not permanently), the twins leverage their complementary differences to foil and exasperate both foes: Myles being an Artemis mini-me who has dressed in black suits since infancy and loves coming up with and then “Fowlsplaining” his genius-level schemes; and Beckett, ever eager to plunge into reckless action and nearly nonverbal in English but with an extraordinary gift for nonhuman tongues. In the end they emerge triumphant, though threatened with mind wipe if they ever interfere in fairy affairs again. Yeah, right. Human characters seem to be default white; “hybrid” is used to describe nonhuman characters of mixed heritage.

Like its bestselling progenitors, a nonstop spinoff afroth with high tech, spectacular magic, and silly business. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04375-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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