THE FEATHERED SERPENT

At the end of The Captive (1978), we left the shipwrecked young seminarian Julian Escobar assuming the identity of the reincarnate god Kukulcan—the alternative to a ritual death—and surveying the Mayan island city-state he now rules in that capacity. In this first-person narrative, Julian still expresses horror at the human sacrifices he doesn't dare order stopped, and still determines to bring the word of his own true God to the Mayans. But it is more likely the greater honor and glory of Julian-as-Kukulcan, an assimilation he accepts with ease, that impels his new preoccupation with restoring the ruined city to its former splendor; and he has no qualms about sending his army off for slaves to do the work. It is Julian's need for yet more worker-slaves that inspires his ill-considered grand scheme: he will journey to the city of the mighty Moctezuma to observe the Aztec's strategies of conquest, with a view to amassing a similar kingdom for himself. As Julian's skeptical and hostile priest has foressen, Moctezuma's response to their visit is to promise an imminent glorious death for the tall blond stranger and his Spanish compatriot, the dwarf who had set him up as a god. But as the two are not yet ready to become hummingbirds, they flee Tenochtitlan. . . and find themselves drafted into the invading army of the ruthless Cortes. In this strong middle volume, in which much is set in motion but little is decided, O'Dell gives us an interesting though not revealing view of the great Moctezuma's "confused" last days, a lightning-like spectacle of multifarious intrigue, and, above all, a shrewd, set-back, wait-and-see look at Julian's loyalties and perceptions in formation.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1981

ISBN: 0395308518

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981

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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

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HATCHET

A prototypical survival story: after an airplane crash, a 13-year-old city boy spends two months alone in the Canadian wilderness. In transit between his divorcing parents, Brian is the plane's only passenger. After casually showing him how to steer, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a breathtaking sequence, Brian maneuvers the plane for hours while he tries to think what to do, at last crashing as gently and levelly as he can manage into a lake. The plane sinks; all he has left is a hatchet, attached to his belt. His injuries prove painful but not fundamental. In time, he builds a shelter, experiments with berries, finds turtle eggs, starts a fire, makes a bow and arrow to catch fish and birds, and makes peace with the larger wildlife. He also battles despair and emerges more patient, prepared to learn from his mistakes—when a rogue moose attacks him and a fierce storm reminds him of his mortality, he's prepared to make repairs with philosophical persistence. His mixed feelings surprise him when the plane finally surfaces so that he can retrieve the survival pack; and then he's rescued. Plausible, taut, this is a spellbinding account. Paulsen's staccato, repetitive style conveys Brian's stress; his combination of third-person narrative with Brian's interior monologue pulls the reader into the story. Brian's angst over a terrible secret—he's seen his mother with another man—is undeveloped and doesn't contribute much, except as one item from his previous life that he sees in better perspective, as a result of his experience. High interest, not hard to read. A winner.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1987

ISBN: 1416925082

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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