A diverting if heavy-handed entry for series fans.


From the Zephrum Gates series , Vol. 3

Zephrum Gates and her friends are back and must confront the rising evil that threatens all of humanity.

In Riel’s third novel in the Zephrum Gates series, Zephrum believes the evil Strasidous Rowpe to be vanquished, but she soon learns that the villain has risen from the dead after merging body and mind with a goblin. Now renamed Virgidous, he is out to gain ultimate power over all things and to finally capture Zephrum. Virgidous learns from notorious goblin seer Grizalda the Great that his plan for world domination will only work with the help of the infamous Zephrum. Meanwhile, Zephrum and her friends return for a new school year at the Fiddlesticks School for Alternative Thinkers With Unusual Abilities. Between lessons on “Circus Art,” “Forecasting the Future Through Mathematical Trends,” and “Oceanography,” Zephrum has to learn to wield her power to control the wind while saving the world with the help of her friends and an unlikely ally. Zephrum comes to face her worst fears, meets new dangers, and faces old foes. She also falls a little bit in love with her dreamy friend Gai Holmes. Middle-grade readers familiar with Riel’s series will be better served by this fantasy novel than those completely new to it. Zephrum’s strong friendships with other girls at school and her earnest encounter with first love are the novel’s core strengths. Other elements offer ongoing appeal: the characters’ names (Sarah Bellum, Daphne Gumption, Misty Falls, to name a few), the silliness of its cackling villain with his absolutely nonsensical plan, and the adult characters who fumble helplessly along. Despite embracing its silly side, the novel maintains a weighty environmental message and kills off a beloved dog, creating an uneven narrative tone. Instances of clunky writing (“thought Zephrum in her mind”) jar but don’t fully ruin the experience.

A diverting if heavy-handed entry for series fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-75557-1

Page Count: 353

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2020

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An apparent tribute to Victorian-era antiquarianism and all the gaping research holes therein.


David compiles a curio collection of surface-level research into the various historical practices feeding current New Age magick.

Introduced as a mysteriously found “scrapbook,” dated 1925, of one Conrad Gessner, the book maintains its sense of authenticity with bland Eurocentrism. Beginning with “A Brief History of Magick,” David (as Gessner) provides a first-person narration of magick practices through a typical Western timeline: ancient Egypt, classical-era Greece and Rome, and “Modern,” with a single spread dedicated to both the entire African continent (exclusive of Egypt) and the Middle East. Following this (brief indeed!) history, each spread provides an overview into a single form of magick, including divination, alchemy, potion-making, and more. Notably absent is any explicit mention of Christianity (a fairly major contemporaneous counterpoint), any explanation of the relationship between star signs and the stars, and the entire continents of North and South America, bar a single sentence mentioning Machu Picchu and one throwaway mention of vague “First Nations peoples’ ” associations with the moon. Also, nowhere in the text is an explanation of the difference between occult “magick”—with a K—and stage “magic”—without. It’s pleasantly and thoroughly illustrated in pencil and watercolor, with diverse humans and nods to the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck. Still, despite the cloth binding and ribbon marker, readers will find more amusement in Candlewick’s venerable ’Ology series.

An apparent tribute to Victorian-era antiquarianism and all the gaping research holes therein. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7112-6207-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A fun and fast-moving adventure giddy with ideas.


This debut middle-grade fantasy sees a neglected orphan returning to the magical kingdom of her birth to face a rising evil.

Thirteen-year-old Caley Cross is the oldest child at the Gunch Home for Wayward Waifs, where she is worked like a slave and kept starved and impoverished. Caley gets on with her life as best she can, but if ever her anger is roused, she dies. Her deaths are only temporary—she revives shortly afterward—but they are linked to an innate power that causes dead animals to come alive. One day, Caley’s resurrections bring her to the attention of a metal-winged crow, whereupon she is rescued from the orphanage and taken to Erinath, a realm beyond Earth. Caley, it transpires, is the lost daughter of Queen Catherine, who disappeared shortly after the girl was born and is thought to have been killed by the nefarious Olpheist. Returned to Castle Erinath (which grows like a tree and often shifts its rooms about), Caley must adjust to her royal status—and to the relentless enmity of Ithica Blight, the vain and petty princess she’s supplanted as next in line to the throne. Ithica’s cruelties aside, there is trouble brewing in the kingdom. Castle Erinath is sickening and Olpheist is rumored to have broken free of his prison. Can Caley and her new friends sort truth from lies and keep him from laying hands on the Hadeon Drop, the ultimate source of creation and destruction? In this wildly imaginative series opener, Rosen’s storytelling overflows with creative fancy, so much so that the strong Harry Potter resonances (cruelly treated chosen one, boarding school social dynamic, Quidditch-like Equidium teams) become an unfortunate distraction from the boundless parade of whimsical characters and fantastical new material. Caley’s adventure begins in a breathless rush before settling down and building steadily to a somewhat abrupt end (and the promise of a sequel). The author’s prose is easy to read, with clear descriptions, age-appropriate dialogue, and plenty of humor. While Ithica is over-the-top and Caley and Olpheist are little distinguished from default heroes and villains, all the other characters ooze originality. All told, young readers will thrill at the sparkle of enchantment.

A fun and fast-moving adventure giddy with ideas.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68463-053-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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