A mare’s nest of storylines, unencumbered by internal logic or any signs of credible resolution.

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THE BEASTS OF UPTON PUDDLE

A secret veterinary hospital for mythical creatures and a hidden island run by dragons and seraphim form stages on which the author shovels heaps of unrelated, undeveloped story ideas.

During the week, 12-year-old Joe Copper, who lives with his widowed mom and her friend “Aunt” Rose, is viciously bullied at school. On Sundays, he finds himself delivering shipments of kitty litter and hard liquor to Merrynether Mansion, a clinic run by ancient Veronica Merrynether and her hulking associate Heinrich for patients ranging from a fire-breathing wyvern with hiccups to a wee alcohol-loving cluricaun with a thick Irish accent and a gift for invective. Meanwhile a huge, hairy beast is sighted haunting surrounding Ringwood Forest, which evil tycoon Argoyle Redwar is leveling for an industrial park. The villain is also seeking to extort from Veronica the location of Pyronesia, the island from which her patients come. Furthermore, Gnauserous, the dragon queen of Pyronesia, is a hair away from leading her armies out to (by unspecified means) exterminate humanity. West-Bulford wedges in further elements, from silly food (Flubbage, aka “Flatulensia Stenchorendous”) to flying, all-seeing, slime-throwing eyeballs called furdlewumps, for comic relief, then gathers his cast for a climactic battle that leaves the island littered with corpses and sown with land mines.

A mare’s nest of storylines, unencumbered by internal logic or any signs of credible resolution. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1605425-20-7

Page Count: 487

Publisher: Medallion Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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

THE STARS BELOW

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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Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts...

THE ENCHANTRESS

From the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series , Vol. 5

Scott tops off his deservedly popular series with a heaping shovelful of monster attacks, heroic last stands, earthquakes and other geological events, magic-working, millennia-long schemes coming to fruition, hearts laid bare, family revelations, transformations, redemptions and happy endings (for those deserving them).

Multiple plotlines—some of which, thanks to time travel, feature the same characters and even figures killed off in previous episodes—come to simultaneous heads in a whirl of short chapters. Flamel and allies (including Prometheus and Billy the Kid) defend modern San Francisco from a motley host of mythological baddies. Meanwhile, in ancient Danu Talis (aka Atlantis), Josh and Sophie are being swept into a play to bring certain Elders to power as the city’s downtrodden “humani” population rises up behind Virginia Dare, the repentant John Dee and other Immortals and Elders. The cast never seems unwieldy despite its size, the pacing never lets up, and the individual set pieces are fine mixtures of sudden action, heroic badinage and cliffhanger cutoffs. As a whole, though, the tale collapses under its own weight as the San Francisco subplots turn out to be no more than an irrelevant sideshow, and climactic conflicts take place on an island that is somehow both a historical, physical place and a higher reality from which Earth and other “shadowrealms” are spun off.

Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts rather than a cohesive whole. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73535-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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