A must-read for fans of the genre.

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OTTILIE COLTER AND THE NARROWAY HUNT

From the Narroway Trilogy series , Vol. 1

In this Australian trilogy opener, a girl infiltrates an all-male monster hunting organization to save her abducted brother.

Cautious Ottilie has always followed her brother, Gully, who—though almost two years her junior—is the more confident and daring of the two. They live with their neglectful mother in abject poverty on the fringes of civilization in the Swamp Hollows. When Gully fails to come home one night, Ottilie learns of boys going missing and sets off to save her brother. To follow him, she must disguise herself as a boy and sneak into the midst of another group of abductees. After Ottilie, masquerading as Ott, arrives at the Narroway—a place none of them have ever heard of—she’s reunited with Gully and told that the boys have been specially selected to serve in the Narroway Hunt to protect their kingdom’s border from dangerous, monstrous dredretches. Only Gully and a female sculkie friend (while boys are huntsmen, girls can only be servants) know of Ottilie’s secret as she plots an escape while also falling deeper into Narroway culture, seeing horrors and coming to embrace the mission’s importance. Exquisite worldbuilding keeps a strong sense of discovery and balances the appeal of the huntsman’s life with the deeply unfair society and hints of conspiracies afoot. Amid thrilling action, plot threads set up the next installment. Ottilie is pale; Gully has bronze skin; most other characters default to White.

A must-read for fans of the genre. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-76050-084-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little Hare/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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