From the Amira & Hamza series , Vol. 2

A captivating magical adventure.

The sibling duo return on another quest to save the world.

It’s been two months since sister and brother defeated Ifrit in Qaf and saved the universe. It’s also the end of summer: Hamza wants to have something awesome to share when school starts, so he goes off to explore an old, abandoned, castlelike house. But a sudden tornado hits, and he wakes up in the Oriental Institute, a nearby Chicago museum, face to face with Ifrit’s father, Ahriman, who has returned in search of the Ring of Power that will allow him to control the human and jinn worlds. To find it, Ahriman needs all three parts of an ancient oculus—and the help of Hamza, who is a Chosen One. Ahriman threatens to destroy everything Hamza loves if he does not help him. After solving a riddle, they claim the first piece from the Oriental Institute, then travel via Ahriman’s tornado to the British Museum and the Louvre to collect the remaining pieces, with Amira and fairy princess Aasman Peri in pursuit. Alternating chapters from Amira’s and Hamza’s points of view capture their thoughts and emotions. Ahmed cleverly weaves in Islamic historical figures, some of whom are ghost Keepers of The Ring who pose riddles, like scholar and philosopher Ibn Sina and scientists and inventors the Banu Musa brothers. Ahmed’s rich worldbuilding continues in this imaginative and absorbing sequel.

A captivating magical adventure. (map, author’s note, notes on fantastical creatures and historical figures, further reading) (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31861-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022


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


A whodunit that doesn’t live up to its intriguing premise.

Coded clues put two young sleuths on the trail of a magic mandala hidden somewhere in a huge, bustling department store.

Hardly has meek young Zander Olinga arrived for a visit with Zina Winebee, his grandmother and owner-manager of the Number Nine Plaza, than he learns of a threat to the continued existence of the renowned emporium. The danger is linked to Darkbloom, a rumored evil spirit set on reversing the good-fortune charm left by Nepali monks at the store’s founding. The stone tablet bearing the magical mandala vanished 90 years ago, and finding its hiding place becomes a race pitting Zander and intrepid new ally Natasha Novikov against unknown saboteurs whose minds have been taken over by Darkbloom. The keys to the tablet’s location are a series of ingenious word and number clues left by Zander’s great-granduncle Vladimir, and Guterson provides enough hints along the way for savvy readers to decode them. What he doesn’t do is give either his leads or the many-faceted store (which, over the course of the story, is explored from the Ferris wheel on its roof to the bakery in the cellar) any more depth or distinctive traits than he gives Nepali religious practice. Darkbloom remains a shadowy bugaboo, its actual nature and motivations unexplained and its fate left anticlimactically unresolved. Zander’s father is from Cameroon, and his mother reads white; names cue some diversity in the supporting cast. Final art not seen. (This review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

A whodunit that doesn’t live up to its intriguing premise. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2024

ISBN: 9780316484442

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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