From the Pandava Quintet series , Vol. 4

Beautifully written and a joy to read.

A soul and a story all in one.

Aru Shah wakes up in the immediate aftermath of Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes (2020) to find herself imprisoned in the Sleeper’s lair, staring at his other daughter, Kara, a half sister she didn’t know about until this moment. Needing to escape and get back to her other Pandava sisters, Aru agrees to bring Kara with her. Two months have passed and much has happened since she last saw her companions: Travel to the Otherworld has ended, their mentors are missing in the city of gold, and its ruler, Lord Kubera, has summoned the Pandavas to compete in his trials three days hence. If they win, Kubera will give them command of the only army that can defeat the Sleeper’s troops, who are marching to Lanka to find a certain weapon capable of destroying all godly defenses and rendering his enemies powerless. Aru, Mini, Brynne, Aiden, and Kara must look inside themselves and find freedom in letting go, as distrust, jealousy, and betrayal could upend everything. Chokshi’s ability to craft stories of adventure, humorous dialogue, strong South Asian female characters, and Hindu cosmology is pure magic. With each entry, the series expands into deeper and richer experiences, delving into more complex themes of friendship and family without sacrificing any of the clever banter.

Beautifully written and a joy to read. (Fantasy. 9-14)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-01386-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents/Disney

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

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. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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