A veritable buffet of fantasy conventions.

THE HIDDEN KNIFE

A gifted heroine must fulfill her destiny, no matter how fraught.

Vicky is the middle daughter of Kat Wardrop, a notorious ex-Raven guard of Queen Evangeline—and the only one to ever leave her service. Advised by a shadowy group called the Collective, the queen wants new Raven recruits to attend the Hogwarts-like Corvus School for the Artfully Inclined. As her daughter shows prowess in both combat and magic, Kat wants to shelter Vicky from Corvus and let her choose her own path. When a sudden and devastating event forces Vicky into attending the school after all, she, desperate with grief, makes a rash decision that could alter the fate of the entire kingdom. Marr’s splashy offering is packed full of an extensive array of beloved fantasy tropes ranging from mystical creatures like gargoyles and kelpies to a magical boarding school, alchemists, thieves, and portals to other worlds. While certainly a crowd pleaser, the plotting tends toward being overcrowded to the point of cliché, but the fast-paced chapters, each narrated from a different point of view, help move everything along. Echoing elements from series like Harry Potter and Nevermoor, and even Disney’s Frozen franchise, this will be popular with a wide swath of readers. Main characters read as White.

A veritable buffet of fantasy conventions. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-51852-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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