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Overthought yet underwhelming.

Two friends get trapped in a malevolent fairy’s spell.

Cautious ninth grader Darra and her frustrated, antsy friend Andrea both feel trapped in their old factory town outside of Boston. Darra’s mom is pressuring her to study nonstop when all Darra wants is a break, while Andrea just can’t wait to move away. After exploring an old factory, Andrea meets a seductive, floating woman named Carmen who claims to be “a member of the fair folke.” Simultaneously, Darra meets a young man named Liam who tells her that he made a deal with Carmen to stay young forever, but he’s been trying to trap her and send her back through a fairy ring ever since he learned that she gets her magic through harming others. Liam recruits Darra to his cause, but she meets resistance from Andrea, who is thoroughly charmed by Carmen. Only when Carmen attacks Darra and Darra gets stuck in Carmen’s manipulation of time does Andrea band together with Liam to stop Carmen once and for all. Darra is hinted to be of Asian descent, and Andrea is racially ambiguous and implied to be queer—disappointing missed opportunities for explicit representation. Liam and Carmen present White. The dark, chalky color palette grates, with occasional high-contrast spreads that give the illustrations a pulpy feel but are ultimately jarring and unpleasant. The be-careful-what-you-wish-for messaging is muddled, Carmen’s villainy is too simple to be compelling, and both the characters and worldbuilding are generally underdeveloped.

Overthought yet underwhelming. (Graphic urban fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-945820-89-2

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Iron Circus Comics

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

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

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 30, 2014

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From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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