Plentifully fueled but doesn’t quite catch fire.

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DONNY'S INFERNO

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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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of...

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) brings back the doughty young wizard-in-training to face suspicious adults, hostile classmates, fretful ghosts, rambunctious spells, giant spiders, and even an avatar of Lord Voldemort, the evil sorcerer who killed his parents, while saving the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from a deadly, mysterious menace.

Ignoring a most peculiar warning, Harry kicks off his second year at Hogwarts after a dreadful summer with his hateful guardians, the Dursleys, and is instantly cast into a whirlwind of magical pranks and misadventures, culminating in a visit to the hidden cavern where his friend Ron's little sister Ginny lies, barely alive, in a trap set by his worst enemy. Surrounded by a grand mix of wise and inept faculty, sneering or loyal peers—plus an array of supernatural creatures including Nearly Headless Nick and a huge, serpentine basilisk—Harry steadily rises to every challenge, and though he plays but one match of the gloriously chaotic field game Quidditch, he does get in plenty of magic and a bit of swordplay on his way to becoming a hero again.

Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of broad boarding school farce and high fantasy. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: June 2, 1999

ISBN: 0-439-06486-4

Page Count: 341

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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