BLADE OF FIRE

THE ICEMARK CHRONICLES, BOOK 2

A huge (in every way) disappointment, this bloated sequel to Cry of the Icemark (2005) bogs down a tale terrific at its core in a mire of uninspired subplots, unnecessary explanations and predictable set pieces. Twenty years later, crazed general Scipio Bellorum is again massing troops to invade the chilly Icemark. Suspecting that not even her nonhuman allies will be enough to turn the tide this time, Queen Thirrin sends Charlemagne, youngest of her five children, overseas to safety—but “Sharley” has other ideas, and even though hobbled by both polio and adolescent lack of confidence, he embarks on a quest to find new allies. Watching him grow, mature and meet new (if not particularly original) peoples provides the same fascination that his mother’s similar journey supplied in the previous episode. Compelled to give nearly every character a point of view, though, Hill keeps putting Sharley’s part on hold while cycling tediously through an unwieldy Icemark cast. Eventually the foes all come together, Sharley charges in with dark-skinned armies from “Arifica” mounted on horses and zebras, the cardboard villains are washed away in fountains of blood and Sharley’s truly bad-apple witch sister Medea is dispatched to another dimension—doubtless to await the next sequel. Some good parts, but not enough to meet expectations. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-439-84122-4

Page Count: 584

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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FABLEHAVEN

Witty repartee between the central characters, as well as the occasional well-done set piece, isn’t enough to hold this hefty debut together. Teenagers Seth and Kendra are dropped off by traveling parents at their grandfather’s isolated Connecticut estate, and soon discover why he’s so reluctant to have them—the place is a secret haven for magical creatures, both benign and decidedly otherwise. Those others are held in check by a complicated, unwritten and conveniently malleable Compact that is broken on Midsummer Eve, leaving everyone except Kendra captive in a hidden underground chamber with a newly released demon. Mull’s repeated use of the same device to prod the plot along comes off as more labored than comic: Over and over an adult issues a stern but vague warning; Seth ignores it; does some mischief and is sorry afterward. Sometimes Kendra joins in trying to head off her uncommonly dense brother. She comes into her own at the rousing climax, but that takes a long time to arrive; stick with Michael Buckley’s “Sisters Grimm” tales, which carry a similar premise in more amazing and amusing directions. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59038-581-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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