With the U.S. teetering on the brink of war and her father off on a secret government job, 11-year-old Nickie’s trip with her aunt to the small town where her great-grandfather lived and died is a welcome break from reality. Yonwood, however, is governed by a cabal who interpret for the Prophet, a local woman who has been struck insensible by a fiery vision of doom. Nickie wants to comply with the Prophet’s apparent directives, but she struggles to understand how her friendships with Grover, a local boy, and Otis, a lovable mutt, fit (or don’t fit) into the Prophet’s plans. DuPrau effectively depicts a community in the grip of a millennial fever, the residents eager to appease an angry God in increasingly twisted ways. Less successful are subplots involving Nickie’s explorations of her great-grandfather’s effects and the weird research of a curmudgeonly astronomer. Thinnest of all is the connection to Ember, which is encapsulated entirely in an afterward. This will disappoint Ember’s fans, but those who read this offering with no series expectations will find it a provocative read with an appealingly conflicted protagonist. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 25, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-87526-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2006

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Series fans may enjoy this patched-together prelude.


From the School for Good and Evil series

Twin wizards duel, fret, switch roles, and fall for the same guy in this prequel to the popular series.

Continuing on the theme that it isn’t as easy to distinguish good from evil as it might seem, Chainani goes back to a time when the titular school was run by a pair of immortal adolescents. School Masters Rhian and Rafal have been told that loving one another is the only way to maintain the balance between Good and Evil at the school, but a long run of folk and fairy tales written out by the mysterious pen called the Storian—in which Good triumphs—has led to a fraternal rift. The assignment of decided scapegrace Aladdin to, astonishingly, the School for Good widens the antagonism (could the Storian have made a mistake?). But though Aladdin is the main point-of-view character for major stretches in the early going, no sooner does he hook up with dazzling schoolmate Princess Kyma than the author shoves him deep into the supporting cast to make room for a jealousy-fueled break and some bad behavior that comes when first Rafal then Rhian lock gazes and lips with pirate trainee James Hook (latest of a long line of villains defeated by a certain other ageless teen). Most of the cast reads as White. Lush but rare illustrations underscore dramatic incidents.

Series fans may enjoy this patched-together prelude. (Fantasy. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316152-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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