The standard fantasy adventure gets an intriguing twist when told from a Wiccan perspective in Alton’s debut. Faced with the horrors of spending his vacation traipsing about Dorsetshire museums with his parents, antisocial nerd Sam manufactures a friendship with local farmgirl Charly in order to be left alone with his videogames. But when Charly takes him to an ancient burial mound, Sam somehow awakens Amergin, apprentice of the wizard Merlin, from thousands of years of enchanted slumber. Amergin proclaims Sam the champion destined to face the Malifex, the embodiment of the powers of death and darkness. Sam would very much rather not get involved, but once the Malifex unleashes his demonic Dhouls and curses his parents, Sam reluctantly joins Charly and Amergin in a search for various magical artifacts, aided by the Wiccan lore preserved by Charly’s mother. Yet with modern industrial pollution and greed, the Malifex has never been stronger, and their quest to restore the cosmic Balance seems doomed to disaster. This is all enjoyable, if unexceptional, fare, though the thinly characterized heroes and pedestrian villains are not well served by frequent, abrupt changes in point of view. However, the somewhat heavy-handed ecological message will appeal to many teens and Alton lifts the story out of the ordinary by his thorough incorporation of Wiccan spirituality (including detailed description of rituals and spells), which leads to an unexpected yet satisfying climactic confrontation. An interesting counterpoint to the many fantasies with a more Judeo-Christian take on the battle between good and evil. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8225-0959-8

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002


A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024


From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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