Reviews for Secrets of the Crown

Booklist Reviews 2011 December #2
The Prophesied Three--cat Aldwyn, blue jay Skylar, and tree frog Gilbert--embark upon another bland but cozy heroic quest in this sequel. Paksahara, the treacherous rabbit familiar intent on overthrowing humans, has used the Shifting Fortress to take away human magic. Humanity's only hope is to send the familiars after the Crown of the Snow Leopard, with which they can reclaim the Fortress. It's a ridiculously contrived sequel, but there is an interesting revealed element: how humans stole rule of Vastia from animals in the first place. The familiars don't reflect upon this long enough to doubt that theirs is the rightful path, but readers might. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Booklist Reviews 2010 June #1
Aldwyn, a scruffy, quick-witted alley cat on the lam, poses as a magical animal when he ducks into a shop to avoid capture and ends up purchased as a boy wizard's familiar. Despite needing to keep his mundane nature hidden, Aldwyn settles easily into his new role, bonding with his human loyal, Jack, and befriending two other children's familiars: Gilbert, a tree frog, and Skylar, a blue jay. When an evil witch kidnaps the children and kills their mentor, only their familiars can save them. Stock characters--the underdog orphaned hero with hidden talents; the bossy, know-it-all girl; the dim, comic-relief friend; the wise old mentor--move through a predictable fantasy quest that is nonetheless agreeable. The dual authors, their intentions toward animated movie-dom clear, write competently but perfunctorily. A secret history about the true role of familiars and a world populated with imaginative wildlife adds interest to the clichťd but charming adventure. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
In their second story, the three prophesied magical animals--cat Aldwyn, frog Gilbert, and blue jay Skylar--set out on a quest for the only artifact that can stop the evil familiar, Paksahara, from unleashing an animal-zombie uprising. The engaging story line features page-turning action and suspense punctuated by droll humor.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Spring
Young wizard Jack chooses Aldwyn the alley cat to be his familiar (animal magic assistant). Aldwyn begins his new life--and adventures--with Skylar, a bird, and Gilbert, a tree frog. Wry humor and energetic writing power the animals' efforts to save the lives of their human "loyals" from an evil witch. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 July #2

This series' second installment is a spiritless conglomeration of fantasy tropes.

Human magic is kaput, so the three loyals (human children) stay home while "the Prophesized Three" familiars‚ÄĒAldwyn, Skylar and Gilbert‚ÄĒtake center stage, journeying to fulfill their destiny. Skylar's an illusion-casting blue jay, Gilbert a tree frog who occasionally sees visions in puddles, Aldwyn a telekinetic cat descended from a tribe "whose mental powers extended beyond that of mere telekinesis, to firestarting, mind control, and astral projection." Except for the fact that Skylar flies and Aldwyn walks on all fours, they barely show animal traits; it's easy to forget that these protagonists are animals at all. What's harder is to think of any fantasy motifs that don't appear. Danger is frequent but never actually dangerous (lose a finger? No worries, it'll regenerate a couple pages later). Protective magic is overly convenient, solutions are too easy and a supposed surprise turncoat is telegraphed all along by his name, which starts with the syllable "Mal." Even cartoon physics works here, sadly without irony or winks: An illusory bridge over a chasm "can even fool gravity and the laws of nature" as long as the familiars "don't question its existence." Frequent double-description makes the pace drag ("He felt drops of water running down his face. He was crying").

This dull string of clich√ɬÉ√ā¬©s offers nothing to invest in. (Fantasy. 7-11) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 August #1

The calculated invocation of too many tropes makes for a joyless fantasy debut. Aldwyn may be an orphaned alley cat with a mysterious past, but he has street smarts in abundance, so when young wizard-in-training Jack adopts him as his "familiar," Aldwyn knows he's on to a good thing. To secure his position among the other familiars--Skylar, the know-it-all bluejay, and Gilbert, the goofily genial tree frog--he pretends to possess magic as well. But when the three apprentice wizards are kidnapped by an evil sorceress, Aldwyn's lie puts their already-impossible rescue mission in danger. There isn't a fantasy cliché left out of this tale nor anything particularly clever or original in their use. The familiars might as well have been named Harry, Hermione and Ron, with only the barest nod to nonhuman traits; the magical system is painfully muddled; the plot is driven by random encounters and ridiculous coincidences; the climactic Big Reveal is telegraphed far in advance; the denouement serves only as a blatant advertisement for a sequel. Pass. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 August #2

After starving alley cat Aldwyn steals food from a fishmonger once too often, he is chased by a notorious bounty hunter intent on exterminating him. He takes refuge in a pet store that sells animal familiars to local wizards and is purchased by Jack, a young apprentice. Aldwyn likes his cushy new life in Stone Runlet with Jack and two other students, but he struggles to convince his fellow familiars--a blue jay named Skylar and a tree frog named Gilbert--that he's as magical as they are. When a prophecy foretells that three spell-casters from Stone Runlet will save the world, the formerly benevolent Queen Loranella kills the students' mentor and takes the young novices prisoner, leaving it to the familiars to rescue the children. Screenwriters Epstein and Jacobson's children's book debut is a grand adventure with entertaining characters and magic-induced fun, written in an appropriately cinematic style (Sony Pictures Animation has optioned the story). Even adults will appreciate a tale in which street smarts mix with book learning, and resourcefulness and confidence are matched by loyalty and respect. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2011 August

Gr 4-6--In this sequel to The Familiars (HarperCollins, 2010), the traitorous rabbit familiar Paksahara has gained control of the Shifting Fortress, enabling her to cast powerful spells; in her bid to overthrow humans, she has eliminated their ability to do magic. Animals retain their magical ability, so familiars Skylar the blue jay, Gilbert the tree frog, and Aldwyn the cat set off on a journey through strange and exotic lands to find the Crown of the Snow Leopard, which will allow them to locate the Shifting Fortress. The cliff-hanger ending ensures at least one more installment. The writing isn't the strength of this book--characters are painted broadly and tend to make pronouncements in pompous fantasy-speak. However, the familiars' adventures are exciting, and the revelations about Aldwyn's long-lost parents are touching. Fans of the first book will be pleased, and the story will also appeal to readers of animal fantasy series like Erin Hunter's "Warriors" (HarperCollins) and Kathryn Lasky's "The Guardians of Ga'hoole" (Scholastic)--Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 August

Gr 4-7--This series opener won't disappoint. Escaping from a bounty hunter, a streetwise cat becomes the familiar of a boy magician-in-training. Almost before Aldwyn gets to know his new surroundings, Jack, his sister, and a fellow student are kidnapped and it is up to him; Skylar, a magic-adept bluejay; and Gilbert, a clumsy, red-eyed tree frog, to rescue their "loyals." The consistently suspenseful narrative moves quickly and is full of twists and turns. The characters are genuinely familiar: Aldwyn feels inadequate and works hard to conceal his humble origins; Skylar has secretly studied human magic and can be arrogant about her abilities; bumbling Gilbert thinks mostly about food and fears the father he has disappointed. The history of the queendom of Vastia is smoothly worked into the narrative. This winning combination of action and humor will keep readers turning pages right up to the ending, which successfully concludes this adventure but leaves room for more.--Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

[Page 98]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2011 December
The second novel in the Familiars series finds the animal companions on a new quest. Paksahara, a gray hare and long-time familiar of Queen Loranella, turns traitor in a bid to seize power for his animal brethren. He casts a spell to prevent humans from performing magic, which wreaks havoc on the entire kingdom. Aldwyn the cat, Skylar the blue jay, and Gilbert the tree frog must find the Crown of the Snow Leopard, an ancient relic that can restore magical abilities to humans. Led by clues in a rhyme, the Prophesied Three journey into unknown lands. Besides battling giant bookworms, drooling echo beasts, and tongueless cave shamans, each familiar must grow in skill and bravery. Themes of friendship, belonging, and loyalty also underscore the tale The fast pace, magical twists, and light humor will entertain young readers. The animals' point of view is engaging, and the three companions charm readers with their banter. Occasional black-and-white illustrations help the story pop. The writing, however, is weaker and more predictable than other titles in the genre, which curtails the suspense. The protagonists face challenges that are mere bumps in the road, conveniently overcome with unseen assistance. The potential to create a unique and engrossing story remains unfulfilled. Besides the obvious appeal for fans of the first novel, this title will also draw in readers who feel daunted by Harry Potter and those just looking to sample the fantasy genre. A cliffhanger ending ensures there will be more adventures to come.--Deborah Cooper 3Q 3P M Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.