Aspires to paint-by-numbers quest fantasy but falls short even of that



From the Defy series , Vol. 3

This trilogy conclusion sends a girl warrior all over fantasyland, a trail of bodies behind her.

Alas, the shoddy worldbuilding and B-movie plotting of the first two books carry over here. When the robed villain Manu de Reich os Deos—"The Right Hand of God," he claims—attacks Alexa and King Damian in the throne room, Alexa can wait no longer. Though she's a member of Damian's personal guard and his affianced bride, she can think of no better plan than disobeying her king's order: she hares off after captured Rylan (ostensibly her second love interest). She travels through a fantasyland packed with flora and fauna from South America and Asia and whose cities have African names. In the nation of Dansii, Alexa is taken captive and becomes the prisoner of King Armando, the blue-eyed maniac who rules his people with a potent combination of mad science and black sorcery. With Alexa's unwilling help, he intends to conquer the world, for he's convinced that her blood holds a powerful magic. Alexa will never survive without the parade of men and women who sacrifice themselves to help her return to Damian. She must fight after unbelievable physical suffering: days of being bled with primitive syringes while deprived of sufficient food and water on a brutally hot desert journey. A deus ex machina conclusion leaves all that sacrifice seeming sadly pointless.

Aspires to paint-by-numbers quest fantasy but falls short even of that . (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-64490-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.


From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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Who can't love a story about a Nigerian-American 12-year-old with albinism who discovers latent magical abilities and saves the world? Sunny lives in Nigeria after spending the first nine years of her life in New York. She can't play soccer with the boys because, as she says, "being albino made the sun my enemy," and she has only enemies at school. When a boy in her class, Orlu, rescues her from a beating, Sunny is drawn in to a magical world she's never known existed. Sunny, it seems, is a Leopard person, one of the magical folk who live in a world mostly populated by ignorant Lambs. Now she spends the day in mundane Lamb school and sneaks out at night to learn magic with her cadre of Leopard friends: a handsome American bad boy, an arrogant girl who is Orlu’s childhood friend and Orlu himself. Though Sunny's initiative is thin—she is pushed into most of her choices by her friends and by Leopard adults—the worldbuilding for Leopard society is stellar, packed with details that will enthrall readers bored with the same old magical worlds. Meanwhile, those looking for a touch of the familiar will find it in Sunny's biggest victories, which are entirely non-magical (the detailed dynamism of Sunny's soccer match is more thrilling than her magical world saving). Ebulliently original. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-01196-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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