An entertaining and action-packed journey that will appeal to Marvel and DC comics fans.

THE ASCENSION MACHINE

What begins as a short-term space con spirals into a galaxywide adventure.

While hustling a few credits for his next meal, an unnamed 17-year-old narrator is offered a deal: briefly impersonate Mirabor Gravane so he can live free of his famous family’s restrictive expectations. Newly dubbed Grey, the narrator arrives planetside at Justice Academy and embarks on a curriculum of superhero classes, gathering a motley crew of multispecies friends: Seventhirtyfour, a four-armed Brontom; Pilvi, a human plant expert; tech genius Gadget Dude; reptilian Dez; and winged Avrim. Trust, friendship, and having a place to belong are discussed even as Grey hides the truth of his identity from his new friends. During convoluted, risky missions, what makes a superhero truly a hero: powers, technology, or just the right knowledge for the situation? The skills Grey brings as a charismatic human who lacks superpowers but excels at strategic thinking are depicted plainly and directly. One major reveal will likely be spotted by readers well in advance, and only Grey, Seventhirtyfour, and Pilvi receive much character development; action sequences, mysterious capers, and somewhat cinematic battles take the forefront. The human characters seem to be white by default; the rest of the main cast is alien.

An entertaining and action-packed journey that will appeal to Marvel and DC comics fans. (Science fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951122-08-9

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Shadow Dragon Press

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

more