THE ALCHEMYST

THE SECRETS OF THE IMMORTAL NICHOLAS FLAMEL

This first in a planned series borrows characters from history, legend and mythology, but is set in modern time. The juxtaposition of our reality with magic and myth is riveting if one is willing to overlook one tiny glitch in the design. History’s greatest alchemist, Nicholas Flamel, has been guardian of a magical book, The Codex, for eons. The Codex contains the secret of eternal youth and keeps the ancient, dark “Elder Race” from world dominion; representing the Elders is a devious human, Dee. Caught in the middle of the age-old struggle are teen twins Sophie and Josh. They are accidental participants in Dee’s attempt to steal the Codex and destroy Flamel and his wife (but if they have been mixing this formula for eons, why do they need the recipe?) It gradually becomes clear, though, that Sophie and Josh hold potentially great powers and play an essential role in fulfilling a prophecy foretold in the Codex. The lines between good and evil blur when Sophie’s magical powers are awakened, but Josh’s are not. The story moves breathlessly fast, with riotous confrontations featuring beasts, Egyptian gods, witches and the walking dead. By the last page of this exhilarating journey, it’s delightfully clear that the ending is merely the beginning. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: May 22, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-73357-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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CLOCKWORK ANGEL

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 1

A century before the events of Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy, another everyday heroine gets entangled with demon-slaying Shadowhunters. Sixteen-year-old orphaned Tessa comes to London to join her brother but is imprisoned by the grotesque Dark Sisters. The sisters train the unwilling Tessa in previously unknown shapeshifter abilities, preparing her to be a pawn in some diabolical plan. A timely rescue brings Tessa to the Institute, where a group of misfit Shadowhunters struggles to fight evil. Though details differ, the general flavor of Tessa’s new family will be enjoyably familiar to the earlier trilogy’s fans; the most important is Tessa’s rescuer Will, the gorgeous, sharp-tongued teenager with a mysterious past and a smile like “Lucifer might have smiled, moments before he fell from Heaven.” The lush, melodramatic urban fantasy setting of the Shadowhunter world morphs seamlessly into a steampunk Victorian past, and this new series provides the setup for what will surely be a climactic battle against hordes of demonically powered brass clockworks. The tale drags in places, but this crowdpleaser’s tension-filled conclusion ratchets toward a new set of mysteries. (Steampunk. 13-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7586-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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