The fourth book cannot come fast enough.

THE SERPENT'S FURY

From the Royal Guide to Monster Slaying series , Vol. 3

Princess Rowan and her friends find trouble and monsters in equal measure in Armstrong’s latest installment.

Though it seems like Rowan and her close-knit hunting party only just left the Dunnian Woods, they have returned for yet another monster mission—or rather to finish the last one. As royal monster hunter, this responsibility is part of Rowan’s heritage; as a nearly 13-year-old monster and science enthusiast, it is a thrilling opportunity to put her growing knowledge and skills to the test. But something isn’t right. A mysterious catalyst has caused a change in migration patterns as monsters of every type flee an unseen terror—and they’re headed straight for Rowan’s home of Tamarel. Rowan, Dain, Alianor, and some old and new friends make a perilous journey deep into the woods to figure out what could have frightened so many powerful creatures. As the terrible answer steadily becomes clearer, Rowan is faced with the truth that monsters do not have a monopoly on monstrosity. Through Rowan’s first-person narration and natural attention to details, Armstrong immerses readers in her ever deepening external and internal worlds. The effect teeters on disorienting as Rowan’s thoughts flood the pages, but intricately choreographed battles, weighty encounters with politics, and introductions to new monsters (enchantingly rendered in the accompanying illustrated field guide) pace what would otherwise feel frenzied. Characters in this world have a range of skin tones; the citizens of Tamarel are brown-skinned.

The fourth book cannot come fast enough. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-7015-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin Random House Canada

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

LEGACY AND THE DOUBLE

From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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