It’s a muddle, and readers are as likely to flounder as Sky does. In a vision, he sees his beloved old mentor Phineas being...

RETURN TO EXILE

From the Hunter Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A preteen with a shadowy past and two odd scars on his palm is cast into a small town’s ongoing struggle among multiple kinds of monsters and warring factions of monster hunters in this hefty setup volume.

It’s a muddle, and readers are as likely to flounder as Sky does. In a vision, he sees his beloved old mentor Phineas being ambushed; he narrowly escapes attack by ravening Shadow Wargs on the grounds of a decrepit old estate; he has multiple run ins with verbally abusive teachers, violent bullies and nearly-as-hostile allies at his new school. The author stocks a huge cast with shapechangers (some of whom can and do adopt multiple guises), monsters of his own creation ranging from luridly vicious “wargarous” to “double bogies” and “screaming wedgies” and humans like Sky’s supposed parents, who plainly know more than they’re telling. Patten parcels out the details of a confusingly complex back story and the impending crisis du jour—a creature of, supposedly, stupendous evil poised to escape a time trap on the aforementioned estate—in driblets, while splashing the plot with extreme but oddly nonfatal violence and tongue-in-cheek dialogue. “And trust me—it’s not as hopeless as it looks. It’s much, much worse. Ready?” Splashes and splatters likewise frame Rocco’s chapter head spot art.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2032-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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THE EMPEROR OF NIHON-JA

From the Ranger's Apprentice series , Vol. 10

The 10th and final full-length episode in an alternate-Earth series that's just about reached its sell-by date unites the five members of the central cast in yet another rescue mission to a distant land. This time its a thinly disguised medieval Japan, where bluff young warrior Horace has been swept up in the entourage accompanying a kindly emperor who is on the run from a vicious usurper. Thanks to a sequence of massive coincidences, he is soon joined in a remote mountain fortress by Rangers Will (who graduated from "apprentice" about five volumes ago) and his crusty mentor Halt, plus temperamental Princess Evanlyn and her spunky frenemy Alyss. While the usurper and his forces obligingly winter nearby, the menfolk train a peasant army for the true emperor while Evanlyn and Alyss set out to recruit more allies and have an air-clearing heart-to-heart about who really loves whom. By the end battles are won, bad guys slain, feasts held and everyone heads home for weddings and further adventures. The "keep it simple" approach has served Flanagan—and readers who prefer predictable plots and easily recognizable settings and character types—well, but the formula has staled. "The Final Battle" blazoned on the cover indicates a recognition of this fact, though loose ends leave open the possibility of further, as-yet-unplanned developments. Here's hoping a break will restore zing to future adventures. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25500-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace.

WAR STORIES

Two young people of different generations get profound lessons in the tragic, enduring legacy of war.

Raised on the thrilling yarns of his great-grandpa Jacob and obsessed with both World War II and first-person–shooter video games, Trevor is eager to join the 93-year-old vet when he is invited to revisit the French town his unit had helped to liberate. In alternating chapters, the overseas trip retraces the parallel journeys of two young people—Trevor, 12, and Jacob, in 1944, just five years older—with similarly idealized visions of what war is like as they travel both then and now from Fort Benning to Omaha Beach and then through Normandy. Jacob’s wartime experiences are an absorbing whirl of hard fighting, sudden death, and courageous acts spurred by necessity…but the modern trip turns suspenseful too, as mysterious stalkers leave unsettling tokens and a series of hostile online posts that hint that Jacob doesn’t have just German blood on his hands. Korman acknowledges the widely held view of World War II as a just war but makes his own sympathies plain by repeatedly pointing to the unavoidable price of conflict: “Wars may have winning sides, but everybody loses.” Readers anticipating a heavy-handed moral will appreciate that Trevor arrives at a refreshingly realistic appreciation of video games’ pleasures and limitations. As his dad puts it: “War makes a better video game….But if you’re looking for a way to live, I’ll take peace every time.”

This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace. (Fiction/historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-29020-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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