Memorably unusual but haphazard; the series peaked with its opener, The Fires Beneath the Sea (2011).

THE BODIES OF THE ANCIENTS

From the Dissenters series , Vol. 3

Children, adults, and myriad creatures fight the final battle in a war over climate change.

The Cold One, an obscure being living under the ocean, has spent centuries both piggybacking on and masterminding global warming so he can colonize the Earth’s surface (The Shimmers in the Night, 2012). Fighting against him are fantastical creatures ancient and modern, a handful of white kids from Cape Cod, and a mother who’s a shape shifter (otter, bear, marine biologist) and “part of an ancient culture with its own secret knowledge.” This ancient knowledge is vast: genius youngest sibling Jax—a Charles Wallace Murry type—can control others, read minds, and enter the internet with his mind; sister Cara sees places from afar. None of this “old way technology” is explained, just used; genrewise, the book completely fuses science fiction with fantasy. Action moves between a Boston technological institute/refuge and the open Atlantic for battles. The Cold One takes control of a U.S. Navy submarine to discharge a nuclear missile, which brings narrative urgency and desperation; however, the question of climate change aside from what might be wrought by that imminent nuclear explosion fades, oddly, weakening the eco-fantasy thrust. Pacing is dense, rushed back stories feel inorganic, and characterizations are loose—but relationships are tender.

Memorably unusual but haphazard; the series peaked with its opener, The Fires Beneath the Sea (2011). (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61873-128-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Big Mouth House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle. (Science fiction. 9-12)

HOUSE OF ROBOTS

From the House of Robots series , Vol. 1

Sammy is less than thrilled when his genius inventor mother creates a robot brother for him.

Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez's life has always been filled with robots. His mother has invented automatons that clean the floors, mow the lawn, give traffic reports and even plant fantastic gardens. Sammy's school has until now been a robot-free zone, but when Mom invents E (for Egghead, or maybe Einstein Jr.—his parents can’t decide) and insists Sammy take the new robot to school, things get out of hand. Chronicling the ups and downs of an entire school year with a robot brother, the authors put cute sci-fi twists on first-time crushes, school bullies and best-friend troubles. There's nothing here that breaks new ground or illuminates the psyche of young boys in any new or interesting ways, but there are plenty of amusing jokes. Young readers with an interest in science will certainly be engaged. A subplot featuring Sammy's younger sister, a brilliant girl who is homebound by severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, is as by-the-numbers as the rest of the book, but it doesn't tie in to the robot plot until the very end. It's hard to tell if this development is a clumsy climax or an awkward setup for a sequel. Either way, it doesn't work well with everything that came beforehand.

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle.  (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-40591-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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