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

KINGDOM OF THE SILVER CAT

1

From the Sapphire Fruit Chronicles series

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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Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly...

THE GIVER

From the Giver Quartet series , Vol. 1

In a radical departure from her realistic fiction and comic chronicles of Anastasia, Lowry creates a chilling, tightly controlled future society where all controversy, pain, and choice have been expunged, each childhood year has its privileges and responsibilities, and family members are selected for compatibility.

As Jonas approaches the "Ceremony of Twelve," he wonders what his adult "Assignment" will be. Father, a "Nurturer," cares for "newchildren"; Mother works in the "Department of Justice"; but Jonas's admitted talents suggest no particular calling. In the event, he is named "Receiver," to replace an Elder with a unique function: holding the community's memories—painful, troubling, or prone to lead (like love) to disorder; the Elder ("The Giver") now begins to transfer these memories to Jonas. The process is deeply disturbing; for the first time, Jonas learns about ordinary things like color, the sun, snow, and mountains, as well as love, war, and death: the ceremony known as "release" is revealed to be murder. Horrified, Jonas plots escape to "Elsewhere," a step he believes will return the memories to all the people, but his timing is upset by a decision to release a newchild he has come to love. Ill-equipped, Jonas sets out with the baby on a desperate journey whose enigmatic conclusion resonates with allegory: Jonas may be a Christ figure, but the contrasts here with Christian symbols are also intriguing.

Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly provocative novel. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 978-0-395-64566-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.

RED QUEEN

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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