COUNT KARLSTEIN

Using multiple narrators and expertly concocted cliffhangers, Pullman (The Subtle Knife, 1997, etc.) crafts a thrilling page-turner less violent than his Sally Lockhart adventures but no less breathlessly paced. Brought to these shores 16 years after it was first published in Britain, this gothic farce features young orphans, evil schemers, a gloomy Swiss castle, a long-lost heir, stalwart lads, capable women, a con man on the lam, hilariously bumbling police officers, and Zamiel: the Prince of the Mountains, the Demon Huntsman, “swathed in impenetrable darkness, with eyes of raging fire.” Having agreed to supply the demon with human prey in exchange for riches, the amoral upstart Count Karlstein and his slimy secretary Snivelwurst plan to lock bereaved young Lucy and Charlotte, believed to be the last Karlsteins in the direct line, in a hunting lodge on All Souls’ Eve. Fortunately, 14-year-old servant Hildi and chunky but superbly competent English tutor Augusta Davenport get wind of the plot and engineer a clever reversal, but not before a sequence of mishaps, desperate searches, captures, and escapes, complicated by a tangle of subplots and capped by a gloriously frightening glimpse of Zamiel himself, at whose hands Count Karlstein meets a well-deserved doom. In the ensuing hubbub, doughty Miss Davenport is reunited with her lost love Antonio Rolipolio, an escape artist whose feckless assistant Max turns out to be none other than Castle Karlstein’s real heir, kidnapped as a baby and thought lost. It’s whirlwind plotting, manipulated into a pulsing tale of darkened hearts, treachery, and at long last, redemption. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-89255-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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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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THE BURNING BRIDGE

From the Ranger's Apprentice series , Vol. 2

More absorbing, straight-arrow adventures set in the medieval, alternate world kingdom of Araluen and featuring the three apprentices introduced in The Ruins of Gorlan (2005). As the brutish wargals of Morgorath, Lord of Rain and Night, gather for an invasion, deft young Will and his strapping friend Horace discover that Morgorath has planned a complex feint that, unless scotched, will spell doom for the armies of Araluen. The third apprentice, diplomat-in-training Alyss, is relegated to a subplot in this outing, but is sure to play larger roles in future episodes. Flanagan explains more than he needs to but propels the plot forward at a heady clip, stirring in live-wire characters who are still learning the finer points of their assigned professions but prove equal to each challenge they face. He also adds to the company a young fugitive who is far more than the lady’s maid she claims to be, and closes with the requisite battle, a breathtaking single combat—and a dismaying lead-in to the next episode. It all adds up to a winning formula that should prove out to a long, steady run for this above average series. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24455-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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