A gentle, colorful magical adventure, with enough creepiness and kindness to sustain a series.

THE LOST SECRET OF THE GREEN MAN

THE CRYSTAL KEEPER CHRONICLES, BOOK 2

Social studies and algebra are plenty challenging for 11-year-old Wanda, but battling a dark sorcerer–no, not her history teacher–really tests a girl’s mettle.

Other than being a budding Crystal Keeper and caretaker of the fairy world, Wanda is your standard-issue middle-schooler, spunky and timorous. Despite her neophyte status, she has been tasked with thwarting the return of Balkazaar, an evil sorcerer. But she won’t have to go it alone. A goodly cast, their characters lightly but clearly etched by Turner, help Wanda in her otherworldly progress–a unicorn, a leprechaun, a couple cat sorcerers and, of course, Brownies and Pillywiggins. The author keeps the story humming as it moves from Wanda’s discovery that new friend Eddie is also a keeper, to her passage through the fairy world, to her engagement with Balkazaar. However, the author smartly pauses long enough at certain junctures–the sudden, strange death of bees and the legend of the Green Man–to provoke readers into deeper thinking. She also inserts old chestnuts into the story with such ease that they feel fresh and may even be absorbed as life lessons–sometimes wisdom is knowing when to ask for help, how to explore one’s limits and facing fear by taking it one step at a time. It’s also worthwhile to gnaw on some plot points. “Many true things have been lost into the myths,” says one of Wanda’s guides about the Green Man. “He has become hidden because the world has lost its respect for him.” Elsewhere, the concept of time raises some confusion–“The World of Fairy has no time,” the book declares before recounting the unicorn’s efforts to fold back time and get Wanda home before her mother finds her missing–but not enough to stop readers in their tracks.

A gentle, colorful magical adventure, with enough creepiness and kindness to sustain a series.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4269-2157-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Our Verdict

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THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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