Some people just make terrible villains.
Take young spellcaster Rune, for example, stuck in Master Dreadthorn’s School for Wayward Villains because he just doesn’t have the knack for real evil (and also because the principal is his father). Possible redemption—with a chance to be promoted from Rogue to Fiend—comes along in the form of an assigned Plot. But despite recruiting a Henchman, kidnapping a princess and fomenting rebellion in a kingdom of his choice, Rune keeps looking like a Hero despite his best efforts. Sanders endows her surly narrator with a colorful cast of allies, such as overachieving vampire classmate Jezebel Dracula (“Mistress Smartyfangs,” as Rune calls her), and rivals led by a seemingly innocuous roommate who bakes cookies that scream fetchingly when chewed. Other characters include Muma Padurii, owner of a certain very enticing gingerbread house deep in spooky Forgotten Forest. Characters in place, the author lays out a quest that looks more like a stumbling rush of happy coincidences and culminates in both a startlingly successful Plot and a whirl of revelations about Rune’s father and family.Amusing fare for readers who aren’t quite up to more sophisticated halfhearted antiheroes like Artemis Fowl or Catherine Jinks’ “Evil Genius” Cadel. (Light fantasy. 10-12)