Effective worldbuilding, strong character development, and fast-paced action make for an entertaining adventure.

THE BOY WITH THE SWORD

From the Dragon Run series , Vol. 2

In this middle-grade fantasy sequel, a boy who defeated dragons must confront a powerful magic wielder.

In Book 1 of this series, 12-year-old Alluencien “Al” Pilgrommor earned a zero rank on Testing Day, putting himself and his family in danger. He was sent away, but being zero also allowed Al to survive being bombarded with Potentia, “the source of all magic,” giving him special powers—some remaining untapped. In a great battle, Al poisoned and overthrew the dragons ruling his society, which freed the five races. Now, the grounds outside Castle Surflienne are littered with dragon corpses, and the imperious Magister Trejir arrives, appointing himself ruler. Feeling devastated by his father’s continued rejection and sensing danger from Trejir, Al goes to Dockside, where he learns two disturbing facts: the Feathers—a secret organization that helped Al kill the dragons—are being hunted, and Trejir has taken the boy’s mother hostage. Not only that, Trejir has gotten hold of a dragon egg and means to reestablish tyranny. As Al works to defeat Trejir, he gathers allies and becomes known as the boy with the sword, which is conspicuously a little too big for him. If Al can learn more about his abilities and how to use them in time, his coalition might have a chance. Matthews (Dragon Run, 2013) takes his exciting sword-and-sorcery tale to some unexpected places here, with well-drawn vignettes of Dockside society and a compelling backstory. For example, because the dragons rewrote history and claimed to have created humans, Al is a monster, not a hero, to many—including his own mother. Al’s enjoyably ragtag associates include the spirits of Castle Surflienne’s last human rulers, which inhabit the very stones. Al’s considerable powers are balanced by his feelings of rejection, and he grows through his experiences, learning to plan and think ahead. But diction is sometimes too modern; words like “mom,” “dad,” “guy,” “okay,” and the intensifier “super” take readers out of this medieval-ish world.

Effective worldbuilding, strong character development, and fast-paced action make for an entertaining adventure.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73307-770-5

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Second Story Up

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

more