From the Circle Opens series , Vol. 3

Pierce turns somber in her saga of young mages-in-training (Street Magic, 2000, etc.), as the smith-mage Daja encounters a more sinister side to fire—and humanity. Daja accompanies her mentor Frostpine to the snowbound port of Kujisko to learn new skills, but herself becomes the teacher when she discovers the incipient magical talents of her hosts’ twin daughters. She also finds a hero in Bennat Ladradun, who transformed his personal tragedy into a firefighting crusade. Daja lends her magic to his mission, rescuing victims from blazing holocausts, and crafting a pair of fireproof gloves. But when investigators suggest arson, she must confront the smoldering motivations that ignite to murder. Daja may have the least distinctive voice among Pierce’s adolescent mages, but she more than compensates with the searing drama of her tale. While her efforts to train the mischievous twins offers some light relief, the overall tone is as dark as the northern setting. The devastation caused by the fires is described with graphic (though not gratuitous) intensity. When Pierce reveals that the obsessed Bennat is the arsonist, Daja’s betrayal and disillusionment will be shared by readers, who have been accustomed of late to seeing firefighters in a heroic light. Yet Pierce also celebrates the virtues of control and craftsmanship, from the simple joy Daja finds in learning to skate to the blossoming of her pupils under hard work and discipline. An absolute must for fans of the series, the minimal backstory also makes this an exciting and thoughtful stand-alone fantasy. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-590-39655-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.


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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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...


From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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