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Lighthearted and conspiratorially didactic; an agreeable romp toward adulthood.

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In this middle-grade novel, a teenager journeys to a Tolkien-inspired fantasy land to act as its hero.

On the day before his 13th birthday, Toby Baxter looks out the classroom window and sees what appears to be a hobbit. Toby is into comic books and Marvel movies, not literary fantasies like Tolkien’s The Hobbit and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Still, when he wakes at night to find a middle-aged man named Author in his room, he can’t help following him through the closet and into his own adventure. Toby is transported to a world where his coming is foretold and he is known as a hero. There is a magic sword encased in rock, inscribed “I.C.E. Call Toby Baxter.” The hobbit Toby saw turns out to be an elf wearing hairy boots. The elves are at war with the trolls, and though they try to live normal lives (eating large meals and playing Australian rules football), another crisis has arisen in this long conflict. Can Toby lead his new friends to victory or will Clygon, Tribal Chief of the trolls, steal his power? Through his actions, what sort of hero does Toby aspire to be? Wright employs a jocose narrative style, telling the story from Toby’s perspective (third person, past tense) but with sporadic authorial asides: “Every sound startled him. Every birdcall caused him to duck—did he just step into a pun?—until he finally relaxed.” Toby is a typical middle-class American teen who carries much of his real-world personality into the fantasy setting. He is quick to suspend disbelief yet never entirely unaware of reality. Though fired by determination and assailed by doubts, he remains happy-go-lucky and too easily distracted by food. Wright reimagines stock fantasy characters (elves, trolls, gnomes) to be more everyday in their outlooks, less a product of quest narrative requirements. While there are perhaps too many elven characters with too little to distinguish them, their society as a whole has more personality than most. The story moves at a good pace, albeit with plenty of asides, and offers a laudable twist (a Star Wars–esque “don’t give in to the dark side”). Young fantasists will enjoy having their eyes opened.

Lighthearted and conspiratorially didactic; an agreeable romp toward adulthood.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66784-963-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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An enthralling fantasy debut exploring exploitation by those in power.

Will 12-year-old Nura be able to outsmart the trickster jinn and save herself and her friends?

Nura lives in the fictional Pakistani town of Meerabagh, where she has worked mining mica to help support her family of five—her mother, herself, and her three younger siblings—since her father’s death. In the mines she has the company of her best friend, Faisal, who is teased by other kids for his stutter, and she enjoys small pleasures like splurging on gulab jamun. Although Maa wants Nura to stop working and attend school, she has no interest in classroom learning and hopes to save up to send her younger siblings to school instead so they can break the family’s cycle of poverty. Following a mining accident in which Faisal and others are lost in the rubble, Nura goes to the rescue. In her quest, she is plunged into the magical, glittering jinn realm, where nothing is as it seems. The author seamlessly weaves into the worldbuilding of the story commentary on real-life problems such as the ravages of child labor and systems that perpetuate inequities. An informative author’s note further explores present-day global cycles of oppression as well as the life-changing power of education. This action-packed story set in a Muslim community moves at a fast pace, with evocative writing that brings the fantasy world to life and lyrical imagery to describe emotions.

An enthralling fantasy debut exploring exploitation by those in power. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5795-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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