However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat,...


From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 2

Full-blown middle-volume-itis leaves this continuation of the tale of a teenage elf who has been genetically modified for so-far undisclosed purposes dead in the water.

As the page count burgeons, significant plot developments slow to a trickle. Thirteen-year-old Sophie manifests yet more magical powers while going head-to-head with hostile members of the Lost Cities Council and her own adoptive elvin father, Grady, over whether the clandestine Black Swan cabal, her apparent creators and (in the previous episode) kidnappers, are allies or enemies. Messenger tries to lighten the tone by dressing Sophie and her classmates at the Hogwarts-ian Foxfire Academy as mastodons for a silly opening ceremony and by having her care for an alicorn—a winged unicorn so magnificent that even its poop sparkles. It’s not enough; two sad memorial services, a trip to a dreary underground prison, a rash of adult characters succumbing to mental breakdowns and a frequently weepy protagonist who is increasingly shunned as “the girl who was taken” give the tale a soggy texture. Also, despite several cryptic clues and a late attack by hooded figures, neither the identity nor the agenda of the Black Swan comes closer to being revealed.

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat, much less under way. (Fantasy 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4596-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Fans of mythology-based fantasies will devour this adventure and anxiously await the next installment.


Abby is your average 12-year-old North Carolinian—and Viking.

She has been eager for years to follow in her mother's footsteps as an Aesir, or Viking warrior charged with protecting the world from Grendels, descendants of the same monster faced down by Beowulf. Still reeling from her mother’s death four years ago, Abby is worried because she hasn’t developed the unusual abilities needed by Aesirs. After she is attacked at home, she and her father head to Vale Hall, an elite Minnesota private school her mother also attended. Along the way they are attacked again, and her father falls into a mysterious coma. Abby is positive a Grendel is after her, but the Viking council at Vale Hall doesn't believe her. She quickly befriends Grimsby and Gwynn, each with their own burdens and secrets. Together they try to find a cure for her father, in the process uncovering secrets from her mother's past and discovering some truths hiding at Vale Hall. This entertaining debut novel seamlessly blends Norse mythology with a modern-day setting to tell an action-packed and humorous story. In addition, the book explores grief, growing up, and starting over with sensitivity and insight. Abby and most other characters are cued as White; Gwynn is described as Asian American.

Fans of mythology-based fantasies will devour this adventure and anxiously await the next installment. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-63607-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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An imaginative premise ill-served by its execution.


From the Lintang series , Vol. 1

It’s a pirate’s life for Lintang.

For Lintang, humans and “mythies,” magical powerful creatures, tensely coexist. (A creature profile foreshadows some chapters.) Inspired by legends, Lintang yearns for adventure beyond her home island of Tolus. However, she only manages to make trouble despite good intentions and warnings from best friend Bayani. Her fortune turns when the infamous pirate captain Shafira appears, offering to rid the island of a deadly Night Terror in exchange for a child from the village—a necessity for a ship’s safe passage past Nyasamdra, the island’s sea guardian. Impressed by Lintang’s spunk, Shafira takes the girl onboard, promising a safe return and a priceless necklace to Lintang’s mother as collateral. The all-female pirate crew prepares to hunt sirens when attacks from mythies and a stowaway Bayani—as a boy, vulnerable to sirens’ calls—reveal a more complicated history. A bigger adventure ensues. Lintang’s impulsive tendencies push the plot along, at times frustratingly so. Moss models characters and worldbuilding after aspects of Southeast Asian cultures and Indonesian myths in addition to Western folklore and her own imagination. Inconsistencies coupled with the lack of a cohesive cultural system lead to disjointed details that detract from the story. Several twists provide a peak in intrigue and possibilities but in the end generate more questions than answers, hinting at a sequel.

An imaginative premise ill-served by its execution. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-46030-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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