KINGDOM OF THE SILVER CAT

1

From the Sapphire Fruit Chronicles series

A fast-paced, sparkling fantasy for tweens in which great wish fulfillment entails great responsibility.

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In this debut middle-grade fantasy novel, a group of children are transported to another world, where they face dragon fire and huge buzzards with the help of new magical powers.

One day in fictional Annaberry, New York, a school bus full of kids drives through a mysterious blue light. Suddenly, it’s in the middle of a deserted field with no apparent signs of modern civilization. After the bus driver leaves, never to return, the 15 third-through-eighth graders are on their own in a land called Hevelen—a place that seems charming and menacing, by turns. There are luscious fruit trees to feast on, but paths through nearby woods seem to move around on their own, and ghosts emerge from the misty night who have the ability to freeze people stiff. The kids soon gain superpowers, which range from standard-issue comic-book fare (Gabi Miera can fly on her skateboard, Timmy Davin has bursts of exceptional speed; Emma Kadean can turn invisible, and Rhea Morgan can shoot flame from her hands) to more offbeat quirks (Annie Perel can momentarily stop time; Gabrielle’s sister, Cici, can create large pink bubbles; Ted Wallis can make music by waving his hands; and Josh Hester, the group’s natural leader, is invulnerable to others’ magic). The kids are attacked by rarewars—giant condors who try to fly them to the castle of Sidtarr, who wants to collect “gifted ones” like them and use their powers. The kids get help from the Panishie, a tribe of adorable, 6-inch-tall fairies, but they also have to dodge fireballs that emanate from the tower of a dragon master. Some of the kids head north to confront Sidtarr while others go south to find a renowned silver cat that might be able to protect them.

In this first series installment, Thomas Carroll constructs a colorful, Narnia-esque world full of intriguing sights and creatures. With 15 characters jockeying for attention, the novel sometimes feels a bit overcrowded; indeed, it’s not until the kids separate into smaller groups that their personalities have enough room to seem distinct. They each face conflicts and inner crises, owing in part to the fact that their delightful gifts often come with weaknesses, which necessitate agonizing trade-offs; for example, Bobby Forester can sense danger from far away, but it causes him excruciating abdominal cramps. These weaknesses teach the kids tough life lessons about self-sacrifice, risk-taking, trust, and reconciliation. The author’s action scenes are exciting but never traumatic or gory, and his limpid, engaging prose style manages to balance exotic spectacle with down-to-earth practicality: “Rhea frowned. She liked the walking trees, but the snow monkeys gave her the creeps. She had almost smacked one when it slid too close and leered at her with its unblinking eyes.” The result is a fun, engrossing yarn about empowered kids who impressively step up when grown-ups can’t help. The book also includes Jackie Carroll’s black-and-white illustrations of each character; Huang’s small, monochromatic illustrations at the top of each chapter; maps; and a glossary of the Panishie language.

A fast-paced, sparkling fantasy for tweens in which great wish fulfillment entails great responsibility. (maps, glossary)

Pub Date: May 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73309-170-1

Page Count: 407

Publisher: Bowker

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

RUTHLESS VOWS

From the Letters of Enchantment series , Vol. 2

The well-paced romantic tension is a highlight of this enjoyable duology closer.

Even a war driven by gods can’t sever communication between journalist lovers Iris and Roman in this steampunk-adjacent romantic adventure.

A prologue sets the scene: Dacre, a god strummed to sleep by magic in Divine Rivals (2023), will not slumber forever. His willingness to wage war to acquire more powerful magic leads him to lay waste to entire towns, and Inkridden Tribune journalist Iris Winnow and war correspondent Roman Kitt can no longer be assured the other is safe—or even still alive. In Iris’ world of cigarette smoke, copper pipes, and driving goggles, colleagues affectionately call each other by their last names, watch each other’s backs, and face danger on the front lines. Though Underling Correspondent Roman is traveling with Dacre’s army, he questions why he was healed of his grievous wounds, while at the same time, he gradually recovers memories of Iris and recalls that she was special to him. Their magically connected typewriters allow for the rediscovery of their love and for communicating potentially deadly information about the invasion of Hawk Shire. The story primarily unfolds from Iris’ and Roman’s viewpoints, and while the prose occasionally uses well-worn phrases, Anglophiles will particularly enjoy the worldbuilding, and returning readers will welcome appearances from Capt. Keegan Torres; her wife, Marisol; and Dacre’s archnemesis—and wife—the goddess Enva. Main characters present white.

The well-paced romantic tension is a highlight of this enjoyable duology closer. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781250857453

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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