DISENCHANTED

THE TRIALS OF CINDERELLA

From the Tyme series , Vol. 2

The second Tyme fantasy features dark-skinned Ella, whose journey of self-discovery—and perhaps true love—dovetails with her eventually becoming a champion for workers’ rights.

The remarriage of Ella’s widowed father has catapulted them into elite status among other business owners in the garment industry. Ella and her stepsiblings attend a posh school, but Ella resists the trappings and the attitudes. Meanwhile, Prince Dash Charming—recent breaker of the 150-year-old spell rendering all males of his line charming but unfaithful—is resisting attempts by his father to betroth him to a member of the Jacquard dynasty. More resistance brews at the National Academy of Fairy Godparenting due to a corrupt leader. The third-person narrative alternates perspective among Ella, Dash, and fairy godfathers Serge and Jasper, all endearing and believable characters. Their tales are as deftly interwoven as the vying houses’ fine garments, even as they reveal to young readers such dark, contemporary issues as enforced child labor, difficulties faced by working-class families, and the harm that is caused by grim factory conditions. Balancing such strong stuff as a graphically depicted garment-factory fire are liberal infusions of magic and humor, which includes a government with a House of Mortals and a House of Magic. Casual references to different skin colors and to LGBTQ characters are also commendable. The book stands alone while also complementing Grounded (2015), the first in the series.

Great, smart fun. (maps) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-64271-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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