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Killmaiden's Compendium
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Kirkus Reviews

Killmaiden’s Compendium of Uncommon Occurrences by James A. Shapiro

A young adventurer searches for his father in this story filled with international intrigue.

Alexander Drake comes from a long line of “Explorers” who investigate leads into the world’s most bizarre and fantastic wonders for their inclusion in Killmaiden’s Compendium of Uncommon Occurrences, an encyclopedia of sorts that has been in existence for over 500 years. They search the steampunk-ish alternative universe that author Shapiro calls “the Wide World,” where chameleon flowers grow but jet engines are merely a rumor, where the countries known to us are given far more romantic names and histories, and where an evil warlord known as the Satrap is building an army in secret. When Alex’s father, Benson, is sent on a secret mission to uncover the Satrap, Alex is forced to summon all his courage and skills as a Compendium Scout to find his father—before the Satrap finds him first. Alex is only 12, but as the youngest Scout ever to have a discovery recorded in the Compendium, he’s far more capable than his age lets on. He’s aided in his quest by his little sister, Charlotte, his governess, Victoria, and bullied schoolmate Oliver MacLeish, who makes up for what he lacks in courage with a whole lot of brains. While visiting mythical mountain temples, tropical markets and decadent palaces, the characters learn inspiring lessons about bravery and doing the right thing. Shapiro has a marvelous imagination and seems to hold nothing back, so the story reads like an episode of Planet Earth crossed with a James Bond novel. The landscapes range from snowy expanses to desert plains to riverside harbors, taking the reader on a delightfully descriptive though dangerous journey. None of the kids are older than 17, but all face their fair share of peril, including sword fighting with pirates and shooting down soldiers. The imagery (and the page count) might be a bit too much for some kids to handle, but most will happily go along for the ride.

A wild Young Adult novel that’s out of this world.

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