1 April 2012, Chickenhouse
Brother Walter, the hob, and William are back in this sequel to The Crowfield Curse. This time, the chapel at the abbey is slowly crumbling, and Sir Robert's workers are not able to do much to save it. Will knows that this is because there is a demon residing in the chapel. When he is assigned to remove tiles from the chapel to be used elsewhere, he unearths a wooden bowl accompanied by Latin text that indicates it is evil. The other brothers think that perhaps the bowl is the Grail, and insist that it be kept on display. Shadlock, the fay warrior who was bound to Jacobus Bones and is now bound to Will, knows that horrible things are going on but doesn't know quite how to set things right. The brothers decide that the best thing to do is to stay up praying in the chapel all night-- oddly enough, this ends in one death and even more destruction. When the abbot is told about the existence of a demon, he agrees to use Sir Robert again, this time in his capacity as an alchemist, in hopes of binding the demon. Unfortunately, this goes horribly wrong as well. Dame Alys appears throughout the book, and she knows that the bowl was used for blood sacrifices for an ancient religion practiced by her ancestors. She calls the demon Belinus and hopes to free him; Will and Shadlock know the demon is really Raum, and desperately wants Will, because of his innocence. Can the abbey hope for help from an angel in order to defeat this demon? And after all the destruction at the abbey, can they ever rebuild? I think there is probably at least one book still to be written in this series.
Strengths: This, like the first book in the series, was just a lovely read. I'm not a huge fantasy fan, but this struck a nice balance between the historical elements and the magical ones that I really enjoyed. Will is a sympathetic character, Walter adds some good comic relief, and Shadlock is mysterious.
Weaknesses: The cover isn't quite as pretty as the first! Not every student will pick this up, but the readers who like medieval fantasies will love it.
King, Wesley. The Vindico.
14 June 2012, Putnam Juvenile.
Five teens are all kidnapped from the bedrooms by a group of super villians known as the Vindico who are trying to conquer the League of Heroes. All of the teens have problems-- James has been dumped by his girlfriend, Hayden has been all but abandoned by his mother, Sam is generally insecure, Lana has been making poor life choices, and Emily is more interested in computers than in socializing at school. The teens are all to be mentored by a villain who shares some of their characteristics, and while the conditions aren't horrible, they aren't good. Training is difficult, embarrassing secrets about each teen are revealed to the whole group, and the teens are all torn between wanting to have superpowers and not wanting to be villains. They all still like the League of Heroes, and are distraught when they are involved in a fight where they are compelled to attack members of it. When the group runs into Deanna, who has some powers and is working with the League, they need to figure out how they can corral the Vindico without getting themselves killed, and see if the League will take them back despite their involvement with Vindico's evil plans.
Strengths: There are a lot of students who want to read about super heroes and villains, and there is a growing number of books on the topic. This holds up well with Walden's H.I.V.E. books, Jink's Evil Genius series, Ferraiolo's Sidekicks, Carroll's Quantum Prophecy Young's S.T.O.R.M and Cody's Powerless. The cover is very appealing, and despite the huge number of characters, the author does an excellent job of making them memorable.
Weaknesses: While I could tell the characters apart, I would have been far happier with a smaller group. Five main characters, with their attendant villains, their side kicks AND the heroes, was a lot of characters! Also, at the beginning there was an intimation that the Heroes were really the bad guys, and I was kind of hoping that the five teens would become villains after realizing they somehow were the good guys. That would have been a nice twist.