From the Adventurers Guild series , Vol. 2

A second story that lacks steam.

Now that the Adventurers Guild has saved Freestone in an epic battle in the series’ eponymous first installment (2017), new dangers lurk that are now not necessarily beyond the city’s walls.

Told in chapters of alternating third-person narration through the perspectives of the book’s heroes, Zed and Brock, the new adventure begins when the guild accepts the charge of elf queen Me’Shala to save the city of Llethanyl. After accidentally tapping into his elven powers in the previous book, Zed, now a full member of the Adventurers Guild, must come to terms with his half-elven, half-human origins as he feels increasing kinship with the elf refugees sheltering in Freestone. Meanwhile, his all-human best friend, Brock, is being blackmailed by the nefarious Lady Gray of the Merchants Guild to act as a spy within the Adventurers Guild. As the guild sets off on their mission to save Llethanyl, hidden dangers among them are revealed followed by the discovery of a lost city of druids. This second installment lacks the sprightly pacing, humor, and energy of the first, offering a slow build laced with lots of heavy dialogue and revelatory moments that don’t serve the overall story. The kid characters feel more like adults than the free-spirited youth introduced in the last installment. Too much backstory and too many characters who lack succinct focus make the story hard to follow at times. Zed has brown skin, and Brock presents white.

A second story that lacks steam. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-8860-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

Close Quickview