A middling middle book.

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THE FROZEN PRINCE

From the Beast Charmer series , Vol. 1

After the events of Kingdom of Exiles (2019), enemies, conspiracies, and secrets dog beast Charmer Leena and her lover, assassin guild master Noc.

Although Leena’s name was cleared by Wynn’s defeat, the Cruor and Charmers Council alike are no closer to finding Wynn’s co-conspirator, the woman who placed the hit on Leena—a magically binding oath that’s challenging Noc’s sanity as he fights it. Through early flashback chapters, Noc’s secretive backstory is revealed to readers before Leena learns it (to her frustration), and it soon becomes relevant as a complication to their plans with each new person who uncovers it. Roughly a third of the way into the story, they make a plan—Charmers Council Crown Yazmin tells Leena of a beast that could help Noc, but first they must travel to get the ingredients for the lure—and set off on a beast-charming quest. The plot’s twists are telegraphed loud and clear and rely on a certain degree of naiveté and inaction on the heroes’ parts. While the primary storyline is about Leena and Noc’s trying to make their love safe (which includes a couple of love scenes that are sexy without being explicitly graphic), other characters occasionally narrate—with virtually identical narrative voices. While background characters are occasionally given skin color descriptors, the primary cast defaults to White. Immersive backmatter includes a bestiary and a Charmer color personality quiz.

A middling middle book. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-935-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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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 perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

A DEADLY EDUCATION

From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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