Despite the fact that the third part of the book pales in comparison to the first two, the honest and humorously...

JEPP, WHO DEFIED THE STARS

Part coming-of-age novel and part paternity quest, this late-16th-century tale earns its distinction by virtue of its narrator: a dwarf.

Edgar Award–winning author Marsh (The Twilight Prisoner, 2009, etc.) has written a fast-paced adventure, abundant with period details, that comprises about two years of the diminutive Jepp’s life. Jepp’s account begins at a perilous point in his story—“imprisoned in [a] star-crossed coach, bumping up and down bone-rattling roads”—which leads to an exposition of the events that have brought him to this fate. Eventually his tale moves to a time beyond the hazardous coach journey and on to a satisfying, if overly contrived, ending. The book has three parts, loosely linked to three crucial northern European settings: the rural inn where Jepp was raised by a loving mother; the kingdom of Coudenberg, where he endures the luxurious but humiliating life of a court dwarf and is involved in a horrible tragedy; and the palace of Uraniborg, renowned for astronomical research, where Jepp’s status rises almost miraculously from pet dog to that of a respected scholar as well as a favored suitor for his beloved.

Despite the fact that the third part of the book pales in comparison to the first two, the honest and humorously self-deprecating voice of Jepp moves readers to rejoice with him as he seeks and manipulates his destiny. (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3500-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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