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From the Mehk Light series , Vol. 1

A debut with potential that explores friendship and identity.

Thai American besties discover new worlds.

Thirteen-year-olds Sofia and Cara have always been together, so it’s a relief that their families are both moving from Colorado to Los Angeles (their moms have the same employer). The pair have barely settled into their new homes when they’re whisked away to the kingdom of Tropos, a land of clouds. Horned, winged royal guards escort the girls to the palace, where Sofia, who struggles with panic attacks, is greeted with the revelation that she’s Jao Ying Saengfaa, the lost crown princess. Her royal parents sent her away as an infant to protect her from Muet, the leader of the Night Army. Muet is raging war, and she believes that Sofia is the key to conquering the three realms and reclaiming what she believes is rightfully hers. While the girls receive combat training, the Oracle drops hints about Cara’s role in the kingdom. The introspective third-person narration toggles among different characters’ perspectives, including that of octopuslike, shape-shifting Plaek, who’s Muet’s servant and is tasked with helping to carry out her campaign. While the premise of the novel and many of the plot twists are compelling, the quick buildup and easy resolutions of the climax and the somewhat pedestrian writing style will leave readers wishing for more depth. Lingering questions set the story up for a sequel.

A debut with potential that explores friendship and identity. (glossary) (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9781960323149

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Shaherazad Shelves

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A pleasing premise for book lovers.

A fantasy-loving bookworm makes a wonderful, terrible bargain.

When sixth grader Poppy Woodlock’s historic preservationist parents move the family to the Oregon coast to work on the titular stately home, Poppy’s sure she’ll find magic. Indeed, the exiled water nymph in the manor’s ruined swimming pool grants a wish, but: “Magic isn’t free. It cosssts.” The price? Poppy’s favorite book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In return she receives Sampson, a winged lion cub who is everything Poppy could have hoped for. But she soon learns that the nymph didn’t take just her own physical book—she erased Narnia from Poppy’s world. And it’s just the first loss: Soon, Poppy’s grandmother’s journal’s gone, then The Odyssey, and more. The loss is heartbreaking, but Sampson’s a wonderful companion, particularly as Poppy’s finding middle school a tough adjustment. Hartman’s premise is beguiling—plenty of readers will identify with Poppy, both as a fellow bibliophile and as a kid struggling to adapt. Poppy’s repeatedly expressed faith that unveiling Sampson will bring some sort of vindication wears thin, but that does not detract from the central drama. It’s a pity that the named real-world books Poppy reads are notably lacking in diversity; a story about the power of literature so limited in imagination lets both itself and readers down. Main characters are cued White; there is racial diversity in the supporting cast. Chapters open with atmospheric spot art. (This review has been updated to reflect the final illustrations.)

A pleasing premise for book lovers. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780316448222

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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