The ending suggests there’s more to come, and both the strong cast and intriguing premise hold promise for sequels—if the...


In a tale that is electrifying until suddenly going dead, a fiery-tempered teenager who can read and alter memories discovers that she’s being played.

Stringing Leesie along by promising to help her regain 17 years of mysteriously lost memories, Preceptor Tobias sends her on missions to Navigate certain minds and sometimes Extract certain memories. Her unquestioning acceptance hits the rocks, though, when she is dispatched to insinuate herself into the circle of Eri, a brilliant neuroscientist’s daughter. In doing so, she learns not only that her identity is blown, but that she has been a tool in a nefarious scheme to give Tobias and the shadowy cabal behind him power over everyone’s memories. Written in present-tense staccato sentences, Leesie’s narrative charges along—and even without using her Navigational talents, so uncommonly masterful is she at observing and manipulating people that just watching her subtly worm her way into the social structure at Eri’s exclusive high school makes riveting reading. Unfortunately, the tale abruptly grinds to a halt for a long revelatory explication from Eri and one of her schoolmates (both of whom, it turns out, have powers of their own) that’s followed by a contrived climax.

The ending suggests there’s more to come, and both the strong cast and intriguing premise hold promise for sequels—if the author can manage them without, as here, running out of steam. (Science fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-934133-55-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Mackinac Island Press

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.


From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles.


From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 4

The victory of Jacob and his fellow peculiars over the previous episode’s wights and hollowgasts turns out to be only one move in a larger game as Riggs (Tales of the Peculiar, 2016, etc.) shifts the scene to America.

Reading largely as a setup for a new (if not exactly original) story arc, the tale commences just after Jacob’s timely rescue from his decidedly hostile parents. Following aimless visits back to newly liberated Devil’s Acre and perfunctory normalling lessons for his magically talented friends, Jacob eventually sets out on a road trip to find and recruit Noor, a powerful but imperiled young peculiar of Asian Indian ancestry. Along the way he encounters a semilawless patchwork of peculiar gangs, syndicates, and isolated small communities—many at loggerheads, some in the midst of negotiating a tentative alliance with the Ymbryne Council, but all threatened by the shadowy Organization. The by-now-tangled skein of rivalries, romantic troubles, and family issues continues to ravel amid bursts of savage violence and low comedy (“I had never seen an invisible person throw up before,” Jacob writes, “and it was something I won’t soon forget”). A fresh set of found snapshots serves, as before, to add an eldritch atmosphere to each set of incidents. The cast defaults to white but includes several people of color with active roles.

Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles. (Horror/Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3214-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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