“Gold hunting is no picnic” in this adventure set in a mythical Chinese desert.

By exaggerating his feng shui expertise and lying about his age, 17-year-old Tianyi, along with his childhood friend and fellow grave robber, Kai, is hired to lead a group of scholars and adventurers across the Black Desert. There is no shortage of fantasy-archaeology material, as our heroes tangle with hairy corpses that come to life, vicious sloths with sharp fangs, blinding sandstorms, and flesh-eating ants. What begins as an intrepid expedition to find the lost city of Jingjue quickly descends into labyrinthine, implausible plot twists. The story may appeal to those who appreciate fast-paced excavation thrillers, complete with a “family heirloom medallion” that can be used to unlock treasure, but by the time a member of the expedition suggests extraterrestrial beings, readers may be well and truly exasperated. Perhaps due to the translation of this story from its original Mandarin, there is a fair amount of awkward moments. It is often difficult to discern whether the author is actually aiming for humor. When defending himself, Tianyi laments, “Kai and I have a good reputation. Just ask anyone in our home village! I once was voted student of the month at my school.” The audience is unclear: older readers may not tolerate the immature feel of the story, but younger readers will struggle with the reading level.

Give this a miss. (Adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52410-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes


From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. For Chiko, their Burmese counterpart, there are no good choices. There is never enough to eat, and his family lives in constant fear of the military regime that has imprisoned Chiko’s physician father. Soon Chiko is commandeered by the army, trained to hunt down members of the Karenni ethnic minority. Tai, another “recruit,” uses his streetwise survival skills to help them both survive. Meanwhile, Tu Reh, a Karenni youth whose village was torched by the Burmese Army, has been chosen for his first military mission in his people’s resistance movement. How the boys meet and what comes of it is the crux of this multi-voiced novel. While Perkins doesn’t sugarcoat her subject—coming of age in a brutal, fascistic society—this is a gentle story with a lot of heart, suitable for younger readers than the subject matter might suggest. It answers the question, “What is it like to be a child soldier?” clearly, but with hope. (author’s note, historical note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58089-328-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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