For real super-villain fun, skip this and go back to Catherine Jinks’ Evil Genius (2007) and sequels.

THE VINDICO

From the Vindico series , Vol. 1

Four teens and one preteen of disparate backgrounds find themselves forcibly recruited into a league of super-villains in this pallid series opener.

They are plucked from lives that range from fairly unsatisfying to downright unpleasant and taken to the secret headquarters of the League of Heroes’ sworn enemies, the Vindico. There, the super-villains use a variety of predictable tactics (humiliation, terror, the promise of power) to mold the unlikely kids into protégés. Though each kid has a separate potential superpower, they bond enough, given the bizarre circumstances, to work together against their mentors when one of them is threatened. What could be an enjoyable comic-book romp is fatally hamstrung by the author's regrettable tendency to tell, not show. The third-person narration shifts perspective from kid to kid and occasionally to the villains, a tactic that should develop distinct characters but here does not. With a couple of notable exceptions (a sarcastic-but-charismatic older boy virtually abandoned by his mother and a computer-genius girl reared in an unloving home), the kids’ back stories are largely uncompelling. Giving readers access to the thoughts and plots of the super-villains serves to leach rather than build tension, and a credibility-straining series of double-crosses causes the climax to drag rather than thrill. Finally, the super-villains’ motive for villainy underwhelms, resulting in huge suspension-of-disbelief problems.

For real super-villain fun, skip this and go back to Catherine Jinks’ Evil Genius (2007) and sequels. (Adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25654-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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