A weakly plotted, overpopulated and only fitfully suspenseful follow-up.

THE STONES OF RAVENGLASS

From the Chronicles of the Red King series , Vol. 2

A prequel spun off from the Charlie Bone series slogs through a second episode hobbled by an unwieldy cast, a Eurocentric attitude, and convenient magic that overcomes all obstacles without much ado.

The British castle that the 200-year-old preteen and future Red King Timoken had thought a new home in The Secret Kingdom (2011) has turned instead into a prison. There’s nothing for it but to fly off atop his mild-mannered camel Gabar in search of a site where he can build a castle of his own. They acquire a crusty Merlin-esque wizard, a chubby dragon and over a dozen fugitive children as companions on the way and are later joined by more characters from the opener. With their help, he fends off repeated attacks from malign spirits and mailed “conquerors,” while constructing a luxurious palace overnight with help from “spirit ancestors.” Though neatly folding in connections between Timoken and his distant descendant Charlie, Nimmo endows her protagonist with such overwhelming powers that all the threats and tasks with which he is faced are but momentary challenges, quickly dealt with. More problematically, in a doubtless well-meant but parochial effort to distinguish Timoken from the general herd of boy wizards the author repeatedly dubs him a generic “African”—and even describes his palace as “more African than British,” whatever that means.

A weakly plotted, overpopulated and only fitfully suspenseful follow-up. (author interview) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-439-84674-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more