Plentifully fueled but doesn’t quite catch fire.


From the Donny's Inferno series , Vol. 1

Rescued by an archdemon, the son of a professional hitman helps keep the underworld a more humane place.

After Angela Obscura, in the form of a beautiful girl, saves Donny Taylor from the burning building where he’d hidden after discovering his father’s real job, the archdemon takes him to her world—these days, they call it Sulfur—where he helps her foil a counter-revolution. In Catanese’s exploration of good and evil, the demons of Hades have replaced the never-ending torment of eternal fire with indefinite stints in the Caverns of Woe, where damned souls may have the possibility of redemption. A lengthy setup introduces a variety of curious characters and the underworld, a place of bizarre, volcanic rock formations, where political rivalries smolder, as exemplified by the opposing opinions of Angela’s two-headed friend, Zig-Zag. Donny arrives just in time for the culmination of a conspiracy to restore the Pit of Fire, through the dramatic destruction of the Council Dome. When the action heats up, there are fears and fires of all kinds. Careful plotting prepares attentive readers for the 12-year-old’s last-minute rescue, and there’s ample room for a sequel. But the author lovingly details the characters’ privileged earthly experiences, funded by the rewards of evildoing, and leaves open the question of whether Donny has been enslaved—which may leave some readers puzzled about where goodness lies.

Plentifully fueled but doesn’t quite catch fire. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3800-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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.


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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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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