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A nuanced and grand fantasy-series finale.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

This final book in a middle-grade fantasy trilogy sees a young teen and her friends protect her twin siblings while trying to save her father's soul.

In her previous adventure, 13-year-old Makenna Grace Gold defeated a seven-headed Red Dragon in China. She’s the Virago, a “Protector of Protectors” who shares a heroic lineage with Joan of Arc. However, a Souler has taken her father Michael’s soul to the Under Realms. It’s the work of Sir Malvado Seaton—the Dark One—who wants to keep Makenna’s infant siblings, Noah and Emi, from spreading a sense of hope around the world. Marigold Frith, the fairy Prelate, sends Makenna’s classmates Sam Taylor and Stephen Levine down to the Under Realms to retrieve Michael’s soul. Fairies Bree and Dee Delphine stand in as magical doppelgängers of Sam and Stephen on Earth while they’re away. And to keep Makenna’s mom, Misty, from worrying about her husband, the fairies secretly turn Fluffy, the Virago’s loyal worm, into Michael’s double as the Gold family visits China. The heroes must be ready for anything as Seaton flies in his private jet to Shanghai; his wicked, two-tailed cat, Savannah, arrives early and tries to attack the twins in their room at the Pudong Shangri-La Hotel. Meanwhile, the real Sam and Stephen infiltrate the underworld after giving DuGaiman, a half-troll bouncer, the runaround. Thanks to Sam’s knowledge of a particular video game, they manage to track the Souler through hell’s numerous levels. The danger for Makenna increases when Ms. Creante, an Alghanii Demonesse, heals from her last battle and reenters the fray.

In Bialys’ third series installment, the author performs a narrative victory lap, securing his trilogy a permanent place on his readers’ shelves. The tale expands the cast but maintains an excellent pace and a perfect balance between comedy and drama. Self-doubt torments the principal characters as much as any vampire cat might; indeed, Ms. Creante reminds Makenna, “you have yet to win a battle all on your own.” Later, in the Under Realms, a being named Orsin feeds Stephen from the tree of knowledge, and the boy experiences a vision in which Sam and Makenna get married as adults. Stephen and Sam nearly have a falling out over this possible future, and Bialys offers a potent illustration of young love. Seaton eventually tempts Makenna with a vision of herself as the most popular, graceful student at school (even the obnoxious Heather Stern worships her); the vision could be reality—if only she’ll give up the twins. Fluffy, in the guise of Michael, provides comedic relief as he struggles with being human. Bialys also offers plenty of quick jokes for adult fans, as when Marigold threatens to withhold DuGaiman’s tickets to a Celine Dion show. Such consistently entertaining details keep the story fresh and buoyant despite the darker themes. The sparkling prose never bogs down, and it’s a joy to meet creations with clever names, such as Ms. Judged. In the end, Virago’s adventure ably delivers a fine message of selflessness.

A nuanced and grand fantasy-series finale.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 330

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020


From the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series , Vol. 1

The sardonic tone of the narrator’s voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism...

Edgar Award–winning Riordan leaves the adult world of mystery to begin a fantasy series for younger readers. 

Twelve-year-old Percy (full name, Perseus) Jackson has attended six schools in six years. Officially diagnosed with ADHD, his lack of self-control gets him in trouble again and again. What if it isn’t his fault? What if all the outrageous incidents that get him kicked out of school are the result of his being a “half-blood,” the product of a relationship between a human and a Greek god? Could it be true that his math teacher Mrs. Dodds transformed into a shriveled hag with bat wings, a Fury, and was trying to kill him? Did he really vanquish her with a pen that turned into a sword? One need not be an expert in Greek mythology to enjoy Percy’s journey to retrieve Zeus’s master bolt from the Underworld, but those who are familiar with the deities and demi-gods will have many an ah-ha moment. Along the way, Percy and his cohort run into Medusa, Cerberus and Pan, among others. 

The sardonic tone of the narrator’s voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty. (Fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-5629-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005


Winning views of a family pulling together, of young people stumbling into adolescence, and of an entertaining if...

Winning a competitive eating contest is David’s only hope of avoiding being grounded for life after he does something stupid with his mother’s credit card.

Already an avid eater and a fan of the “sport,” David Miller, 14, figures that he’s really going to have to up his game after accidently spending $2,000 in an online auction for what is billed as the very hot-dog half that cost pro eater Jooky Garafalo last year’s Nathan’s Famous contest. Fortunately, local pizzeria Pigorino’s is sponsoring a competition at the Iowa State Fair with a $5,000 first prize. Unfortunately, David will have to beat out not only a roster of gifted amateurs to make and win the finals, but also a pair of professionals—notably the renowned but unscrupulous El Gurgitator. As much gourmet as gourmand, David not only vividly chronicles awe-inspiring gustatory feats as he gears up and passes through qualifiers, but describes food with unseemly intensity: “Disks of pepperoni shimmer and glisten on a sea of molten mozzarella.” Even better, though, is the easy, natural way he interacts with Mal, a younger brother whose neurological disability (the term “autistic” is banned from family discourse) transforms but does not conceal a rich internal life. Other subplots, such as a developing relationship between David’s longtime friends Hayden (who is evidently white) and Korean-American Cyn, further enrich a tale in which his own tests and his loving, white family’s determined quest to discover what they dub “Mal’s Rules” both result in thrilling, hard-won triumphs.

Winning views of a family pulling together, of young people stumbling into adolescence, and of an entertaining if controversial pursuit, “reverse-eating events” and all. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9070-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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