Nicely serious eco-fantasy; may volume three have more cohesive internal logic.

THE SHIMMERS IN THE NIGHT

From the Dissenters series , Vol. 2

The seemingly three-tiered conflict that emerged in Fires Beneath the Sea (2011) coalesces into a single war in this earnest but somewhat haphazard middle volume.

Cara and her brothers (though not their oblivious dad) know their mom’s involved in a confrontation that connects murderous mythical creatures with global warming. Cara leaves Cape Cod for a Boston swim meet, but a frightened text from Jax (a classic genius-younger-brother archetype—think Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time) says he’s endangered at his Cambridge genius-kid camp. She sneaks off to fetch him, and a man with flames inside his mouth accosts her on the subway. He’s a Burner, an elemental who belongs to the army of the Cold. The Cold steals people’s consciousnesses (including Jax’s) and uses their bodies as “hollows” to serve his Carbon War, which is acidifying oceans and extinguishing species. On the good side are mindtalking/mindreading teachers, Cara’s mother (a shapeshifter) and animals both modern and ancient. Relevance to real-world burning of coal and other fossil fuels is vast. However, characters’ naiveté and ill-fitting metaphysics (for example, a book that can take Cara anywhere she asks) replace the luminous prose and luscious, cohesive mysteries of the earlier book. Textual insistence on (Arthur C.) Clarke’s Law—that magic and technology are indistinguishable—jams the nightmare-image Burners and other fantasy elements into the category of “tech.”

Nicely serious eco-fantasy; may volume three have more cohesive internal logic. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-931520-78-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Big Mouth House

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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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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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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