Lacking in all but length, this adventure never makes it off the ground.

THE ALMOST KING

Seventeen-year-old Aleks leaves home to join the Siberene military in hopes of finding adventure but instead finds abuse, corruption, and despair.

Punishing physical training, meager rations, and a brutal beating at the hands of an officer lead to the white teen’s decision to desert. He escapes, traveling north to Syvana, where he finds a home, work, and romance. Unfortunately, the military quickly tracks him, dogging his steps at every turn. However, for unexplained reasons they do not take him into custody. Aleks has a dream: to fly an airship through the Stormlands. When the net finally begins to draw closed, he escapes to the skies. A chaotic plot, a bland setting, and mediocre writing are only a few of the problems in this companion to Take Back the Skies (2014). Aleks’ immaturity, selfishness, and willingness to sacrifice others for his own comfort make him an unlikable hero. Unnecessary scenes filled with aimless wandering do little to enhance the story, and the ending feels both forced and abrupt. Oddly, it also introduces many missed opportunities for inspiring characters and interesting drama. Russian surnames hint at a Northern European inspiration and, unfortunately, beg comparison to the far superior worldbuilding and plotting of Leigh Bardugo.

Lacking in all but length, this adventure never makes it off the ground. (Adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-627-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

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 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

more