THE DRAGON RIDGE TOMBS

From the City of Sand series , Vol. 2

Battered but unbowed after their last adventure (The City of Sand, 2017), grave robbers Tianyi and Kai match wits against a new cast of supernatural beings.

While helping their friend Gold Tooth with his Beijing market antiques stall, they meet a farmer from Shaanxi hoping to sell a valuable Ming dynasty shoe. Tianyi, Kai, and Gold Tooth immediately head west, fired up by the farmer’s tales of treasure-filled tombs in his hometown. Risking life and limb in a maze of haunted caves populated by gigantic spiders—which they end up fleeing clad only in their underthings—Tianyi and Kai are horrified to find their backs marked with a mysterious symbol. Chinese-American archaeologist Julie Yang returns to China reporting that both she and Professor Chen, whose desert expedition the teens led in the previous book, also bear this sign. Julie relates the story of an early-20th-century grave robber whose quest holds clues to this mystery—and, finally, a chance meeting with a blind fortuneteller/con artist points to an expedition in Volume 3 that will tie everything together. The episodic story structure with its delayed resolution may be intriguing to Western readers in its contrast to typical thriller fare, and the blend of derring-do, horror, humor, and a rich invented mythology will sustain interest. The dialogue is refreshingly snark-free, and the boys are considerate of others and respect the behavior code of their profession. Most characters are Han Chinese, but some slightly stereotypical white foreigners feature.

Lively and engaging. (Thriller. 11-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-52414-7

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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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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