Nevertheless, a remarkable and distinctive offering for devoted fantasy fans.

PETRA K. AND THE BLACKHEARTS

A breathless—for the most part page-turning—adventure pits a poor, fatherless girl against all sides in a battle for a dragon’s heart and a city’s freedom.

Petra is clearly the odd girl out when her class goes on a field trip to Ludmilla’s Cosmetics Emporium, and she’s the only one to receive a vial of perfume distilled from the mystical song of a dragonka (a descendent of ancient dragons)—launching events that culminate in revolution. An apparent epidemic of “dragonka fever” allows the monarchy’s police force, the Boot, to impose martial law on behalf of the child emperor, Archibald the Precious. As the city falls under oppression, Petra is occupied with the young dragonka she saves from a deliberate drowning. A permeable divide between living and dead is revealed to be evil at work, and Petra and a ragtag gang of orphans, the Blackhearts, must free the city from an ancient curse revived. Meticulously imagined, Petra’s city is built on ancient layers of cultures and traditions, with magic woven into its fabric. Marvelous descriptions of the city in decline, its vast mysterious underground, and the dragonka and their magical variety provide a foundation almost too rich for the intriguing but thinly supported plot. The character of first-person narrator Petra is nuanced, but she has her moments of blankness, as if the author abandoned her to dash to the next scene.

Nevertheless, a remarkable and distinctive offering for devoted fantasy fans. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9850623-8-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Young Europe Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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There’s violence and gore in profusion, cool gear, hot wheels, awesome feats, inner conflicts on both sides—all that’s...

STEELHEART

From the Steelheart series , Vol. 1

A straight-up Marvel Comics–style action drama featuring a small band of human assassins taking on costumed, superpowered supervillains with melodramatic monikers.

It’s certainly a tried-and-true formula. Twelve years ago, a mysterious Calamity began turning random ordinary humans into evil Epics gifted with various combinations of superpowers (and also, always, some Achilles heel). Now, 18-year-old David Charleston manages at last to make contact with a cell of Epic-killing Reckoners led by legendary mastermind Jon Phaedrus. Then it’s on to a nonstop thrill ride that begins with the killing of David’s father 10 years before and roars through car and motorcycle chases, secret missions, huge explosions and hails of gunfire with high-tech weaponry to a climactic battle with Epic Steelheart. He’s bulletproof, shoots energy balls, has transformed the entire Chicago area into solid steel with a wave of his hand and wears a stylish silver cape. Shockingly, the book closes with the stunning revelation than not all Epics are evil through and through. As further sign that Sanderson (Rithmatist, 2013, etc.) isn’t taking any of this too seriously, the cast of Epics includes not only the likes of Steelheart, Faultline and Deathpoint, but Pink Pinkness and El Brass Bullish Dude, and some of their powers are equally silly. Stay tuned for sequels.

There’s violence and gore in profusion, cool gear, hot wheels, awesome feats, inner conflicts on both sides—all that’s missing are the pictures. (Fantasy. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-74356-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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