A substantive and enjoyable fantasy featuring colorful characters, a real-world setting, and the believable journey of a...

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A teenager who refuses to believe a prophecy that he will be New York’s next superhero faces dark events and otherworldly messengers in this second volume of a middle-grade series.

It isn’t necessary to have read Janney’s (The Phantom of New York—Volume I, Peter and the Crown, 2017, etc.) first fantasy installment to enjoy this eventful sequel, but it will deepen readers’ experience to know just how 13-year-old Peter Constantine began his odyssey to supernatural crime fighting. Of Greek descent, the teen lives with his father, Manos, and mother, Jovanna, at The Crown, a luxury hotel in New York. The family fled there when a dangerous fugitive known as The Client threatened to murder Manos for reporting his criminal activities to the police. Manos serves as The Crown’s building superintendent; Jovanna labors in the hotel’s laundry; and Peter, who feels an odd affinity for the hotel, is being mentored by a magician, an etiquette maven, a boxing coach, and a circus blade-thrower. Among the teen’s peers are a spunky girl from India; a video gamer from Japan; and a kind, rich white girl. Hawkins, who is black, brilliant, and homeless, lives part-time with Peter’s family. Peter, who secretly thwarted an attack on the hotel by The Client and his Red Masque syndicate in the first book, still disbelieves the hotel ghost’s pronouncement that he has been chosen as the next Phantom, a legendary superhero. His reluctance to accept his fate may frustrate some readers, but within these supernatural trappings, Janney has deftly crafted the coming-of-age story of a young teen whose innate good character and experiences in the real and magical worlds are preparing him for the future. With humor, imagination, and fine-tuned suspense, the author mixes in bullies, a Phantom wannabe, a mouse-turned-faery, circus animals, a mysterious key, a sword with strange qualities, and a ghostly twist. When a circus troupe moves into the hotel, Peter and his friends act on the boy’s suspicions that The Client and the Red Masque are hiding within the company, attempting to find treasures rumored to bestow magical powers on the finders. The surprise conclusion hints at a third book to come.

A substantive and enjoyable fantasy featuring colorful characters, a real-world setting, and the believable journey of a young protagonist to a magical destiny.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-981419-20-3

Page Count: 350

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018


In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000


Four fifth-graders are recruited by a scheming magician in this hefty bonbon from the author of the Fablehaven tales. At first, Nate, Summer, Trevor and Pigeon think they have it good. Having asked them to help her recover a hidden treasure that (she says) belongs to her, Belinda White, friendly proprietor of a sweets shop that has just opened in their small town, provides some uncommon candies—like Moon Rocks, that give them the ability to jump like grasshoppers, and literally electrifying Shock Bits. When she begins asking them to commit certain burglaries, though, their exhilaration turns to unease, and rightly so; Mrs. White is actually after a draft from the Fountain of Youth that will make her the world’s most powerful magician. And, as it turns out, she isn’t the only magician who’s come to town—not even the only one whose magic is tied to sweets. Filling out the supporting cast with the requisite trio of bullies, plus magical minions of various (and sometimes gross) abilities, Mull trots his twist-laden plot forward to a well set-up climax. Leaving the door open an inch for sequels, he dishes up a crowd-pleaser as delicious—if not so weird—as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory . (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-59038-783-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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