Affectionate “mecha,” gruesome battles, deathbed confessions and stolen children make all the right ingredients for a result...

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TAKE BACK THE SKIES

A steampunk heroine saves the world in a debut adventure.

Fourteen-year-old Catherine Hunter is a child of one of the most powerful men in the Anglyan government, but that doesn’t mean she’s had a happy childhood. Her cartoonishly evil father presides over a reign of terror in war-torn Anglya, and he has been violently abusive against Catherine all her life. Rather than be forced into a loveless marriage, Catherine disguises herself as a boy and stows away on a skyship. Its jovial, do-gooder crew turns out to be smugglers for justice. They all, from dishy ginger orphan Fox to motherly, stew-ladling cook Alice, happily integrate Catherine—going now by “Cat”—into their ranks. As Catherine learns that everything she’s ever known about her country is a lie, she’s thrust into the usual high-stakes fight to save the world. This struggle is paced just right for her to have lovers’ quarrels while sneaking around the most dangerous building in the country. The pieces are all here for a plucky-girl adventure, but the details—secondary characters right out of central casting, cheesy dialogue, a rushed and badly dissonant conclusion—hang ill-fitting on the age-of-steam framework.

Affectionate “mecha,” gruesome battles, deathbed confessions and stolen children make all the right ingredients for a result not quite baked; send it back to Alice in the galley . (Steampunk. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61963-367-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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I AM NUMBER FOUR

From the Lorien Legacies series , Vol. 1

If it were a Golden Age comic, this tale of ridiculous science, space dogs and humanoid aliens with flashlights in their hands might not be bad. Alas... Number Four is a fugitive from the planet Lorien, which is sloppily described as both "hundreds of lightyears away" and "billions of miles away." Along with eight other children and their caretakers, Number Four escaped from the Mogadorian invasion of Lorien ten years ago. Now the nine children are scattered on Earth, hiding. Luckily and fairly nonsensically, the planet's Elders cast a charm on them so they could only be killed in numerical order, but children one through three are dead, and Number Four is next. Too bad he's finally gained a friend and a girlfriend and doesn't want to run. At least his newly developing alien powers means there will be screen-ready combat and explosions. Perhaps most idiotic, "author" Pittacus Lore is a character in this fiction—but the first-person narrator is someone else entirely. Maybe this is a natural extension of lightly hidden actual author James Frey's drive to fictionalize his life, but literature it ain't. (Science fiction. 11-13)

     

 

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-196955-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts...

THE ENCHANTRESS

From the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series , Vol. 5

Scott tops off his deservedly popular series with a heaping shovelful of monster attacks, heroic last stands, earthquakes and other geological events, magic-working, millennia-long schemes coming to fruition, hearts laid bare, family revelations, transformations, redemptions and happy endings (for those deserving them).

Multiple plotlines—some of which, thanks to time travel, feature the same characters and even figures killed off in previous episodes—come to simultaneous heads in a whirl of short chapters. Flamel and allies (including Prometheus and Billy the Kid) defend modern San Francisco from a motley host of mythological baddies. Meanwhile, in ancient Danu Talis (aka Atlantis), Josh and Sophie are being swept into a play to bring certain Elders to power as the city’s downtrodden “humani” population rises up behind Virginia Dare, the repentant John Dee and other Immortals and Elders. The cast never seems unwieldy despite its size, the pacing never lets up, and the individual set pieces are fine mixtures of sudden action, heroic badinage and cliffhanger cutoffs. As a whole, though, the tale collapses under its own weight as the San Francisco subplots turn out to be no more than an irrelevant sideshow, and climactic conflicts take place on an island that is somehow both a historical, physical place and a higher reality from which Earth and other “shadowrealms” are spun off.

Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts rather than a cohesive whole. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73535-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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