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

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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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

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