Thoroughly unpleasant and turgid to boot.

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THE TWYNING

Rats and humans declare war on one another in this gory study in hidden fears and shifting loyalties.

Vaguely Victorian in setting, the narrative switches in short alternating chapters between human and rodent casts. Below ground, Blacker concocts an elaborately structured community of rats who somehow converse nonverbally by telepathic “revelation”; certain virginal bucks can even “hear” ambient information. Overhead, street child Dogboy gets by helping both a rat catcher who collects victims for slaughter in pit fights with dogs and also a crackpot scientist who, allied with an ambitious local politician, is engineering a campaign of fear to fuel large-scale massacres of the rat population. Along with adding a companion for Dogboy in Caz, a younger escapee from a “dance school” that trains girls as playthings for wealthy perverts, the author crafts ugly scenes of human brutality that give the rats—vicious or even cannibalistic as some may be—the moral high ground. Despite some humans whose sympathies lie with the rats, the sides are clearer than the plot, which climaxes in a muddled running battle that ends in a draw and is followed by a contrived happy ending. The fantasy elements do at least provide some distraction from the blunt lambasting of human savagery.

Thoroughly unpleasant and turgid to boot. (rat glossary) (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6902-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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