As a stand-alone or as part of the Tyme series, eminently worthwhile.

TRANSFORMED

THE PERILS OF THE FROG PRINCE

From the Tyme series , Vol. 3

After selfish Prince Syrah is transformed into a frog, he becomes a better person.

Eighth and youngest child of the king of the Olive Isles, handsome, effortlessly athletic Syrah is vain, inconsiderate, uncaring, and rude. As a joke he kisses Delicata Gourd from neighboring Yellow Country. But it wasn’t a joke to serious, sincere Deli, who writes Syrah a love letter in return. Syrah’s response? Harshly rejecting her. A year later, Syrah’s interested in Deli, but she (understandably and wisely) rejects him. Incensed, Syrah makes Deli’s love letter public. Rather than face the consequences of his dishonorable actions, Syrah runs off, makes an incautious wish, and is transformed into a frog. Fifteen months and many adventures later, the third-person narration chronicles frog Syrah’s slow recognition of his flaws even as he simultaneously works to uncover dangerous secrets that threaten Yellow Country. He teams up with the only person he can communicate with, Harrow Steelcut, Deli’s former suitor. Their eventual triumph is satisfying, but the friendship that blooms between the two former enemies and Syrah’s internal transformation are the most gratifying of all. The abundance of brown-skinned characters, including all three principals, is great to see in a fantasy. Morrison deftly chronicles Syrah’s changing heart—a believably long and nuanced journey—and retools both “The Frog Prince”and other fairy tales in interesting, original, and grim ways.

As a stand-alone or as part of the Tyme series, eminently worthwhile. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-11392-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

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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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