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THE LOST ONES

From the Dark Ascension series , Vol. 2

An origin story that will leave readers with more questions than answers.

This entry in Disney’s freshly reimagined backstories for signature villains follows Robin Benway’s The Wicked Ones (2023) with a look at Peter Pan’s archnemesis.

James and Marlene, English twins from a town on the North Sea, are close despite their differences in temperament. Shy, timid, methodical James dreams of higher education and life in London—not inheriting their father’s struggling fishing business. Outgoing, fearless, impulsive Marlene rejects the demure role their mother, nanny to a wealthy London family, cherishes for her. Swept out to sea on their 15th birthday, the twins surface on the beach of a tropical island, where Peter Pan rules a loyal band of fairies and the Lost Boys. Marlene’s thrilled with Never Land and fascinated by Peter, while James is increasingly anxious to leave before Never Land erases their memories of home. They clash over their next steps after discovering a rival band of Lost Boys, exiled by Peter following a failed coup, and the twins’ sibling bond continues to be tested. This intermittently entertaining tale suffers from jarring inconsistencies in James, its linchpin character, whose motivations and actions shift abruptly; lively Marlene is engaging, if underdeveloped. The generic historical English setting is vaguely fleshed out. While many of the Lost Boys seem to be younger than the twins, some sparse but pivotal violence that is not foreshadowed makes the book skew older. Most characters are cued white.

An origin story that will leave readers with more questions than answers. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781368067157

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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NEVER FALL DOWN

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

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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