A fast-paced, familiar tale with strong echoes of Tolkien, Pullman, and Pokémon.

THE INQUISITION

From the Summoner Trilogy series , Vol. 2

An underdog and his unlikely companions go to war in this sequel to The Novice (2015).

It’s been two years since Fletcher Wulf fled the village of Pelt and one year since he won the tournament at Vocans Academy only to end up imprisoned. Now on trial, 16-year-old Fletcher (pale of skin and dark of eyes and hair) confronts both his hometown foe, Didric, and academy rivals, and he sees the racial and class tensions dividing the land. Although a last-minute revelation frees Fletcher—and offers the orphan an origin story—Fletcher’s possible nobility wins no favor with gloating villains who surpass schoolyard bullying for serious violence. An Everykid hero, raised as a commoner but now magically gifted and martially trained, Fletcher reunites with friends dwarf Othello and elf Sylva and earns new allies. But the Hominum Empire is at war, so Fletcher and his friends—and enemies—fully armed and assisted by an expansive menagerie of animal-sidekick demons, embark on a mission behind orcish lines to sabotage their opponents, earning acclaim as their deeds are broadcast back home. Matharu offers a derivative story with continuous action and occasional gross-out humor; its worldbuilding is a cheerful mishmash of geography, chronology, and mythology blending guns, magic, and exoticized indigenous tropes. Given the last, its blunt message against injustice and prejudice feels a smidge ironic.

A fast-paced, familiar tale with strong echoes of Tolkien, Pullman, and Pokémon. (Fantasy. 10-16)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07631-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2016

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

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 some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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