Just the ticket for fans of Unfortunate Events in dim corridors and murky subterranean chambers.

WARREN THE 13TH AND THE ALL-SEEING EYE

From the Warren the 13th series , Vol. 1

As sole remaining worker for the once-grand hotel he eventually stands to inherit, 12-year-old orphan Warren toils to keep up with the destruction his (supposed) aunt Annaconda is wreaking in her search for a legendary All-Seeing Eye that might restore her waning witchly powers.

The fortuitous appearance of a trail of cryptic clues, along with a stranger shrouded in bandages and Annaconda’s equally malign sisters Scalene and Isosceles, escalate the hunt to a mad scramble. With help from a tentacled but friendly monster lurking in the boiler room and Petula, a beautifully tattooed witch hunter, Warren ultimately discovers that the real prize is the hotel itself, which turns out to have several unusual capabilities. Page design plays a large role in setting the tone. Initial letters and loud exclamations are printed in red and, often, a variety of antique display types; the double columns of narrative switch to white on black for Annaconda’s scenes; calligraphic patterns or esoteric geometric figures appear in many of the dark, wood-engraving–style illustrations. Codes, visual puzzles, and mirror writing also figure prominently. As heroic of heart as he is grotesque of features ("toadlike face, gray skin, crooked teeth”), Warren leads the way to a triumphant resolution that presages further adventures.

Just the ticket for fans of Unfortunate Events in dim corridors and murky subterranean chambers. (Light horror. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59474-803-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean...

THE ODYSSEY

An anemic retelling of the epic is paired to crabbed, ugly illustrations.

Breaking for occasional glimpses back to Penelope’s plight in Ithaca, Cross relates Odysseus’ travels in a linear narrative that begins with his departure for Troy but skips quickly over the war’s events to get to the sack of the city of the Cicones and events following. Along with being careless about continuity (Odysseus’ men are “mad with thirst” on one page and a few pages later swilling wine that they had all the time, for instance), the reteller’s language is inconsistent in tone. It is sprinkled with the requisite Homeric references to the “wine-dark sea” and Dawn’s rosy fingers but also breaks occasionally into a modern-sounding idiom: “ ‘What’s going on?’ Athene said, looking around at the rowdy suitors.” Packer decorates nearly every spread with either lacy figures silhouetted in black or gold or coarsely brushed paintings depicting crouching, contorted humans, gods and monsters with, generally, chalky skin, snaggled teeth, beer bellies or other disfigurements. The overall effect is grim, mannered and remote.

Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean (Odysseus, 2004), this version makes bland reading, and the contorted art is, at best a poor match. (afterword, maps) (Illustrated classic. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4791-9

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more