A lyrically beautiful existential fable, unfortunately based on paternalistic and romanticized notions about Native peoples.

SOONCHILD

Beloved for such classics as Bedtime for Frances and The Mouse and His Child, the late master leaves a mystical tale about life, death and expiation of mistakes wrapped up as a romanticized Inuit fable.

A pre-story note sets the geography as “The North in my mind.” It provides references for fauna, snowmobiles and cold weather, but not for Inuit people; if Hoban researched Inuit culture beyond “my mind,” he doesn’t say. The story addresses distinctly non-Inuit readers: “Maybe…there isn’t any north where you are. Maybe it’s warm….There aren’t any Inuit or dogsleds, nothing like that.” In that Otherized “North” lives Sixteen-Face John, a shaman. As John indulges in “drinking Coca-Cola…watching TV…and reading magazines with centerfolds” and hunting “with a skidoo instead of a dogsled,” the text indulges in a problematic stereotype: native culture choked by excessive modernism and individual decadence. Soonchild, the unborn baby of John and his wife, No Problem, refuses to be born until she hears the World Songs, which contain “the memory of ancient rains that filled the oceans.” John mixes a Big-Dream Brew and goes on a dream-quest. He meets animals and spirits including Old Man Raven; he changes form and confronts demons; he retrieves the Songs. Deacon’s soft, primitive pencil and charcoal reinforce the drama. Hoban sneaks poetry into prose: “They taught him dreams and trances, magic songs and dances.”

A lyrically beautiful existential fable, unfortunately based on paternalistic and romanticized notions about Native peoples. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5920-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences.

REALM BREAKER

When the realm is in danger, only a small band of misfits can save Allward.

An in medias res prologue, told from the point of view of the lone squire accompanying the 12 Companions of the Realm, tosses readers into the thick of a quest. Half the Companions are human heroes and half are immortal Elders; they seek to stop a rogue thief and his wizard accomplice from using a magical Spindle to tear a passage between worlds for nefarious ends. A disastrous battle sends squire Andry fleeing with Cortael’s sword so villain Taristan can’t get his hands on it. Grieving Elder Dom requires both a person of Corblood (a descendant of human travelers from another realm) and the Spindleblade Andry protects to stop Taristan from bringing ruin to the realm. Dom seeks Cortael’s secret daughter, Corayne, a bright but sheltered teenager with a pirate mother. At times the narrative tension is undermined by flashbacks that readers already know the conclusions to and by occasional repetition caused by the multiple point-of-view jumps, but there’s a wide variety of action scenes, daring escapes, and betrayals. Many tropes and character types are familiar, but exquisite descriptions and clashing motivations result in a nuanced, sprawling realm with a sense of complicated history. This world is highly diverse in terms of both skin tone and in the refreshing range of roles female characters inhabit.

An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287262-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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