THE CHESTNUT SOLDIER

Completing the trilogy begun with The Snow Spider (1987), Nimmo again draws on Welsh legend to parallel an ancient tragedy with the trauma of a soldier who has failed to save his men from a disastrous fire in Belfast. Major Evan Llr comes to the small Welsh village to recover from an apparently invisible wound—not his first; long ago, his brother died in a fall from a tree, and those who knew gentle Evan were mystified by his seeming to acquire his more popular but angry brother's personality. Gwyn, boy-magician of the other books, becomes aware that Evan is possessed by the spirit of Efnisien, tormented half-brother of the mighty Bran. Ultimately, Gwyn manages to send Efnisien peacefully on to the Otherworld, thus restoring Evan. The legend is complex; drawing on her now-extensive cast for her modern counterpart, Nimmo attempts, with mixed success, to parallel every detail. The best in this series, Orchard of the Crescent Moon (1989), drew strength from its insightful presentation of the real characters; here, the focus is more on the less convincing magic. Gwyn the boy, tinkering with spells that he only half understands, and Gwyn the mighty magician are not sufficiently melded; moreover, the action—rather than being a contemporary drama illuminated by its heroic prototype—seems forced into the legend's mold, while the promising idea of linking Efnisien with modern battle stress is overburdened with clever but less than fully digested detail. Acceptable, but disappointing. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 30, 1991

ISBN: 0-525-44656-7

Page Count: 201

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1991

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Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin.

The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyne’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice.

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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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