An often captivating fantasy tale that will have readers eager for a possible sequel.

THE DEVOID

ALMA KITE

In Marsh’s debut fantasy novel, a 12-year-old boy goes searching for a monster and finds out more about himself in the process.

As the story opens, Sephron has been wandering the woods for some time with little knowledge of who, or even where, he is; nearly all his memories seem to have vanished. The only thing he knows for sure is that he has a special ability to see the life forces of other creatures. He doesn’t consider it all that special, but it proves to be helpful, as it allows him to know if any living things are hiding in the dark. Soon Sephron meets a trio of soldiers, befriends them, and follows them to the nearby town, where he learns that there’s a wider world outside of the woods. Sephron soon joins the academy that counts his new friends as members and meets others, including some closer to his age, who help to educate him. Shortly after Sephron arrives in town, Neryk, a soldier who’s close to Sephron’s headmaster, learns of the young boy’s gift, which he believes may be connected to the terrible War of Allies and the horrors that happened in it. Indeed, it turns out that a deadly creature from the war is still lurking somewhere out there, and Sephron soon goes on a quest to find the monster and protect his new friends and home. Over the course of the novel, Marsh presents a fantasy story with effective twists and turns, featuring a cast of characters that will satisfy genre fans. The book also sometimes plays with readers’ expectations to intriguing effect. For example, when Sephron steps up to complete a challenge on his first day of school, he doesn’t immediately blow everyone away and get the top score, as fantasy fans may expect. Overall, Sephron and his friends prove to be endearing characters, and even minor players are shown to have distinct, unique personalities upon their introduction, which speaks to the author’s solid skill with characterization.

An often captivating fantasy tale that will have readers eager for a possible sequel.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2021

ISBN: 979-8701297805

Page Count: 301

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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