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

THE DRAGON LANTERN

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.

THE STARS BELOW

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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Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts...

THE ENCHANTRESS

From the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series , Vol. 5

Scott tops off his deservedly popular series with a heaping shovelful of monster attacks, heroic last stands, earthquakes and other geological events, magic-working, millennia-long schemes coming to fruition, hearts laid bare, family revelations, transformations, redemptions and happy endings (for those deserving them).

Multiple plotlines—some of which, thanks to time travel, feature the same characters and even figures killed off in previous episodes—come to simultaneous heads in a whirl of short chapters. Flamel and allies (including Prometheus and Billy the Kid) defend modern San Francisco from a motley host of mythological baddies. Meanwhile, in ancient Danu Talis (aka Atlantis), Josh and Sophie are being swept into a play to bring certain Elders to power as the city’s downtrodden “humani” population rises up behind Virginia Dare, the repentant John Dee and other Immortals and Elders. The cast never seems unwieldy despite its size, the pacing never lets up, and the individual set pieces are fine mixtures of sudden action, heroic badinage and cliffhanger cutoffs. As a whole, though, the tale collapses under its own weight as the San Francisco subplots turn out to be no more than an irrelevant sideshow, and climactic conflicts take place on an island that is somehow both a historical, physical place and a higher reality from which Earth and other “shadowrealms” are spun off.

Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts rather than a cohesive whole. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73535-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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