Gratz has plenty of fun with his alternate history, but returning readers will notice that the dark is definitely rising.


From the League of Seven series , Vol. 2

The company of heroes destined to battle the immortal Mangleborn continues to assemble in a middle volume that blurs the line between the good guys and the bad further.

The theft of the titular lantern, which transforms people who see its light into monsters of diverse icky sorts, sends superstrong Archie in pursuit aboard a huge steam-powered robot captained by George Custer. Meanwhile, the vengeful search for those who massacred her home village leads young Seminole warrior Hachi to Marie Laveau’s New Orleans for battles with zombis, loas, and a gigantic Mangleborn serpent. Gratz sets his colorful yarn in an alternate “North Americas” made up of several countries (both colonial and indigenous) and populates the teeming supporting cast with both historical personages, like a windup Jesse James, and an array of tentacled horrors. He pitches his gathering band of Leaguers—grown by the end to five of the appointed seven—into a nonstop round of chases, flights, ambushes, narrow squeaks, and heroic feats. Struggling with his own dark origins as well as a tendency to bouts of irrational, wildly destructive rage worthy of the Incredible Hulk, Archie leads a vividly drawn and diverse ensemble. Helquist’s portraits of intrepid or menacing figures at the chapter heads signal the story’s shifts in focus.

Gratz has plenty of fun with his alternate history, but returning readers will notice that the dark is definitely rising. (map) (Fantasy/steampunk. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3823-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.


From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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Who can't love a story about a Nigerian-American 12-year-old with albinism who discovers latent magical abilities and saves the world? Sunny lives in Nigeria after spending the first nine years of her life in New York. She can't play soccer with the boys because, as she says, "being albino made the sun my enemy," and she has only enemies at school. When a boy in her class, Orlu, rescues her from a beating, Sunny is drawn in to a magical world she's never known existed. Sunny, it seems, is a Leopard person, one of the magical folk who live in a world mostly populated by ignorant Lambs. Now she spends the day in mundane Lamb school and sneaks out at night to learn magic with her cadre of Leopard friends: a handsome American bad boy, an arrogant girl who is Orlu’s childhood friend and Orlu himself. Though Sunny's initiative is thin—she is pushed into most of her choices by her friends and by Leopard adults—the worldbuilding for Leopard society is stellar, packed with details that will enthrall readers bored with the same old magical worlds. Meanwhile, those looking for a touch of the familiar will find it in Sunny's biggest victories, which are entirely non-magical (the detailed dynamism of Sunny's soccer match is more thrilling than her magical world saving). Ebulliently original. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-01196-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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