Better-read fans will discern strains from Swift, Tolkien, Burroughs and others (not to mention Grey’s Anatomy and Fantastic...

THE CHAMBER IN THE SKY

From the Norumbegan Quartet series , Vol. 4

Frequent shifts in point of view amid a welter of journeys, captures, escapes, lampoonery and alien invasions cap the Norumbegan Quartet with a patchwork close.

The psycho-vampiric Thusser continue to conquer Vermont while mounting a massive attack through an interdimensional gateway on the degenerate elves living in the innards of a continent-sized Great Body. Meanwhile, Brian and Gregory, along with hot if easily distracted elven companion Gwynyfer and doglike bacterium Tars Tarkas, set out to contact the remote Rules Keepers—a convenient, one-step way to bring the invaders to heel. Anderson sends his contentious young adventurers down a country-sized intestinal tract and through encounters with fungal mystics and other biota into captivity in a Thusser prison built from hardened phlegm. As he does, the author makes increasingly rapid-fire cuts from that world to this one, from the advancing hordes of genuinely creepy Thusser to the comically self-absorbed elves and other previously met characters. Just as his tale shows signs of being wrung dry of both satiric juice and bodily fluids, the author engineers a dizzying, last-moment save.

Better-read fans will discern strains from Swift, Tolkien, Burroughs and others (not to mention Grey’s Anatomy and Fantastic Voyage) within this climactic orchestral cacophony of ickiness and farce. (Burlesque horror. 11-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-33493-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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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.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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