A novelist for adults tries for a younger audience with a condescending, thinly disguised pastiche of classic and recent fantasies. Two children, doughty Abby and Spike, an amnesiac foundling who (of course) turns out to be a prince, help rescue their captive parents, plus a group of kidnapped children who are being forced to mind magic Dust (“Snow Dust”) from a subterranean Antarctic land. Along the way, the pair meet Captain Starlight, the Ancient Mariner himself, with his oversized albatross companion Benbow, an irascible librarian with a staff of elves, monsters, and ancient machines that respond only to the good of heart, and a positive array of witches. There’s bluff Sea Witches; pompous but well-meaning Light Witches; and fetid, bat-cloaked Night Witches plotting to exterminate their rivals with a mixture of Fairy—er, Snow Dust and toxic sludge. The author leaves no doubt about whom to hiss and whom to root for as, along the way, the good guys Save A Whale and participate in a performance of Peter Pan in which a traitor is unmasked by his refusal to clap for Tinker Bell. Attempts to inject wonder, surprise, and humor into the tale fall as flat as the climactic battle, in which the chief bad guy stands by wringing his hands as Abby heals an immense serpent with Kindness, then vanishes (sequels, anyone?), leaving his evil cohorts to blow up at the least whiff of Snow Dust. Wyatt supplies pen-and-ink sprays of twinkling stars, and Jules Verne–like spot illustrations, some of which recur. There’s not much here for fans of J.M. Barrie, Joan Aiken, Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and the like beyond a sense of déjà vu. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-29659-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2001

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Like its bestselling progenitors, a nonstop spinoff afroth with high tech, spectacular magic, and silly business.


From the Fowl Twins series , Vol. 1

With their big brother Artemis off to Mars, 11-year-old twins Myles and Beckett are swept up in a brangle with murderous humans and even more dangerous magical creatures.

Unsurprisingly, the fraternal Irish twins ultimately prove equal to the challenge—albeit with help from, Colfer as omniscient narrator admits early on, a “hugely improbable finale.” Following the coincidental arrival on their island estate of two denizens of the subterranean fairy realm in the persons of a tiny but fearsome troll and a “hybrid” pixie-elf, or “pixel,” police trainee, the youngest Fowls immediately find themselves in the sights of both Lord Teddy Bleedham-Drye, a ruthless aristocrat out to bag said troll for its immorality-conferring venom, and Sister Jeronima Gonzalez-Ramos de Zárate, black-ops “nunterrogation” and knife specialist for ACRONYM, an intergovernmental fairy-monitoring organization. Amid the ensuing whirl of captures, escapes, trickery, treachery, and gunfire (none of which proves fatal…or at least not permanently), the twins leverage their complementary differences to foil and exasperate both foes: Myles being an Artemis mini-me who has dressed in black suits since infancy and loves coming up with and then “Fowlsplaining” his genius-level schemes; and Beckett, ever eager to plunge into reckless action and nearly nonverbal in English but with an extraordinary gift for nonhuman tongues. In the end they emerge triumphant, though threatened with mind wipe if they ever interfere in fairy affairs again. Yeah, right. Human characters seem to be default white; “hybrid” is used to describe nonhuman characters of mixed heritage.

Like its bestselling progenitors, a nonstop spinoff afroth with high tech, spectacular magic, and silly business. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04375-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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