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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With so many top-notch writers on tap, it's surprising this collection is only solid rather than exquisite; still, those...

WHAT YOU WISH FOR

A BOOK FOR DARFUR

This charitable benefit anthology gathers all-stars for both hits and misses on the theme of wishing.

Twelve stories are accompanied by five poems and one warmly vivid graphic short. Francisco X. Stork introduces Pablito, Breaker-Breaker and Sherry B in a stellar tale of teens supporting one another in a group home. Sofia Quintero's "The Great Wall," about a Jamaican-American girl with a thing for the Chinese-food delivery guy, is entertaining enough to overcome its brick-to-the-head lack of subtlety. Meg Cabot's nerdy hero, seeking a friend, is heartbreakingly funny. The stories cover First World problems, far from the Sudanese refugees described in the saccharine foreword by Mia Farrow, but that distance only helps the collection. John Green's "Reasons" directly addresses some of the moral issues underlying the desire to rescue people from other countries in a thought-provoking piece about a boy in love with a sponsored Kashmiri child. Ann M. Martin's epistolary tale shows two girls with different sets of financial and social problems finding support in each other's friendship. As for the poetry, with offerings from Naomi Shihab Nye, Marilyn Nelson, Gary Soto and Nikki Giovanni, even these tiny verses are lovely.

With so many top-notch writers on tap, it's surprising this collection is only solid rather than exquisite; still, those readers willing to brave anthologies will be rewarded . (Anthology. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25454-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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Plenty of sword work and old-style action-adventure, with the occasional clever spin.

UNDER THE MOONS OF MARS

NEW ADVENTURES ON BARSOOM

Fourteen swashbuckling new adventures extend the exploits of John Carter and his descendants on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ version of the Red Planet.

Poised to catch any wave of interest (or at least publicity) that may come along with the release of the film John Carter, the collection features the eponymous Civil War vet and other characters from the original series facing a typical array of multi-legged monsters, multi-armed warriors, defeated adversaries rising again and weird remnants of ancient science. Highlights include: Tarzan walk-ons in stories by Peter S. Beagle and S.M. Stirling; an account of a drunken thoat-lifting contest in Garth Nix’s hilarious “Sidekick of Mars” that somehow never made it into the canon; a tale from Chris Claremont that transplants Carter, Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkas to Jasoom (Earth); and the valedictory “Death Song of Dwar Guntha,” (Jonathan Maberry) about one last great battle before planet-wide peace breaks out. Written in prose that evokes the sweep of the originals (“And as the moons sailed through the black ocean of the sky, John Carter, Warlord of all Barsoom, sang of the last charge of the great Free Riders. And such a tale it was….”) and with a full page image of a well-armed (in more ways than one), often scantily clad figure in each, these pay fitting tribute to a gifted pulp writer.

Plenty of sword work and old-style action-adventure, with the occasional clever spin. (foreword by Tamora Pierce, story introductions, author bios, Barsoomian Gazetteer) (Science fiction short stories. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2029-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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