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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street, East Providence, RI 02914


Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman, Scholastic, 2017, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-338-14912-8

This is a graphic novel, part of the Adventures of John Blake. Blake is a young boy aboard a ship that has gotten unhooked from time and travels from century to century. They are being pursued by a villainous businessman who intends to destroy them and steal their scientific secrets. When they rescue a young girl, they promise to return her to her own time, but doing so will put them within reach of their enemies. Full color throughout, nicely drawn and scripted, but there is nothing in the story that is particularly visually impressive, so none of the individual artwork stands out. 5/6/17

Umberland by Wendy Spinale, Scholastic, 2017, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-545-83694-4

Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson, Scholastic, 2017, $17.99, ISBN 978-1338068696

Here we have a couple of young adult fantasies. The first is part of a series, so I had trouble following the story for quite a while. The young protagonists  have escaped from a magical place back to an England troubled by the imminent death of the queen and the rise of a strange new disease. They learn that a cure might be found in the middle of a labyrinth in Germany yes, this is explained reasonably well but there are creatures in the maze and they guard the treasure that the protagonist seeks.  Enjoyable but you really need to read the earlier book, Everland, first. The second title is a variation of the story of Swan Lake. A princess reaches the age where her magical powers are finally fully accessible. She hopes to be able to help her mother in her war against an evil rival kingdom. To do that, she has to perfect her shapeshifting powers but she may have put her trust in the wrong person to help her. This is the first of a two part story, so the story is not completely resolved. I liked this one as well, although it necessarily feels incomplete. 5/1/17

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge, Amulet, 2017, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-4197-2484-8

This very unusual fantasy novel was first published for young adults in the UK in 2012. The population of this fantasy world is divided into two. One group lives in a vast underground city where the local artisans can create a wide variety of unusual products. The others live on the surface, but they have a peculiar problem. Their faces all lack expression unless they hire a facesmith to teach them how to alter their faces to mimic actual emotions, even ones they do not actually feel. When a young woman appears whose face is so disturbing that she is forced to wear a mask at all times, it upsets the status quo despite the precautions taken to prevent that from happening. The story is very unusual and certainly makes a pleasant break from the usual runs of castles, sorcerers, rampaging barbarians, and dragons both good and bad. I found the young woman's personality grated on me at times, but otherwise this was a very interesting and entertaining outing. 4/13/17

The Gears of Faith by Gabrielle Harbowy, Tor, 2017, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-8440-9

A Pathfinder tie-in novel, though that's pretty irrelevant. Basically this is traditional sword and sorcery set in a fairly standard fantasy world. This particular book has a female knight as its main protagonist. Her partner is a gnome woman - a healer of sorts - who is a somewhat atypical companion for a hero. The two are engaged in trying to figure out who stole a magical artifact so that they can recover it. They aren't the only ones looking for it either, and if there were oddsmakers in this world, they'd be far from favorites. But they have the author on their side. The tone is very light, although the main plot is serious enough. This was a good, competent fantasy adventure that is rather designedly predictable. 4/7/17