Leaps the tottering stack of similar “sidekick” novels in a single bound.

SCHOOL FOR SIDEKICKS

Disquieting revelations await a fledgling teenager at superhero school.

After Evan horns in on a super beat down between A-list archnemeses Capt. Commanding and Spartanicus shortly after his 13th birthday and against all odds survives, he wakes up enrolled in Hero High with—a dream come true—a set of variously useful new powers ranging from superhealing to supersnarky banter. Outfitted with a stylish costume and the moniker Meerkat, he delightedly joins a set of new roommates for classes like “Combat with Dinnerware” and “Bantering Basics.” But the dream takes on a nightmarish cast when his intern assignment hooks him up with Foxman, once a respected hero but now a depressed recovering alcoholic. Moreover, he learns that the whole Masks vs. Hoods thing isn’t an ongoing battle between heroes and villains at all but a secret government project with unusually vicious internal policy conflicts. Nor is there any clear distinction between good guys and bad. Still, Evan keeps his idealism intact and ultimately lands on his feet even as he works his way through thorny family and loyalty issues. Readers will savor his triumph as well as the melodramatic plot and the cast’s rib-tickling array of “metahumans,” including the unfortunately named Hotflash, HeartBurn, the dangerous Fromagier (Evan: “Sweet barking cheese, Foxman!”), and the shape- and gender-shifting Blur.

Leaps the tottering stack of similar “sidekick” novels in a single bound. (Superhero fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-03926-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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THE EMPEROR OF NIHON-JA

From the Ranger's Apprentice series , Vol. 10

The 10th and final full-length episode in an alternate-Earth series that's just about reached its sell-by date unites the five members of the central cast in yet another rescue mission to a distant land. This time its a thinly disguised medieval Japan, where bluff young warrior Horace has been swept up in the entourage accompanying a kindly emperor who is on the run from a vicious usurper. Thanks to a sequence of massive coincidences, he is soon joined in a remote mountain fortress by Rangers Will (who graduated from "apprentice" about five volumes ago) and his crusty mentor Halt, plus temperamental Princess Evanlyn and her spunky frenemy Alyss. While the usurper and his forces obligingly winter nearby, the menfolk train a peasant army for the true emperor while Evanlyn and Alyss set out to recruit more allies and have an air-clearing heart-to-heart about who really loves whom. By the end battles are won, bad guys slain, feasts held and everyone heads home for weddings and further adventures. The "keep it simple" approach has served Flanagan—and readers who prefer predictable plots and easily recognizable settings and character types—well, but the formula has staled. "The Final Battle" blazoned on the cover indicates a recognition of this fact, though loose ends leave open the possibility of further, as-yet-unplanned developments. Here's hoping a break will restore zing to future adventures. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25500-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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A massive explosion at the end only sets that evil scheme back a bit; stay tuned for further strange and exhilarating...

COLD CEREAL

From the Cold Cereal Saga series , Vol. 1

A motley assortment of human experimental subjects and faerie exiles take on a New Jersey cereal company run by eldritch management for nefarious purposes.

With an off-the-wall sensibility that fans of the author’s True Meaning of Smekday (2007) will recognize with delight, Rex kicks off a planned trilogy. He brings together sixth-grade outsider Scottish Play Doe (an actor’s son, surprise), young genius Erno Utz and his even brighter supposed twin Emily, a crusty old leprechaun and like unconventional allies to be hunted by agents of the huge Goodco Cereal Company—producers of Burlap Crisp™, Honey Frosted Snox™. These and similar products enjoy a wild popularity that can be ascribed to the literal truth of the company motto: “There’s a Little Bit of Magic in Every Box!” The author tucks in portrait illustrations and hilariously odd TV-commercial storyboards, along with a hooded Secret Society, figures from Arthurian legend, magical spells and potions, a certain amount of violence, many wonderful throwaway lines (“Yeh may have a tarnished glamour about yeh, sure. Like a celebrity’s daughter.”) and tests of character with often surprising outcomes. All in all, it’s a mad scramble that culminates in the revelation of a dastardly plot that will require sequels to foil.

A massive explosion at the end only sets that evil scheme back a bit; stay tuned for further strange and exhilarating developments. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-206002-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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