In Review: Cleopatra In Space–Book Four: The Golden Lion

Perfect reading for reluctant readers and those who look to the stars. Recommended.

Cleopatra In Space–Book Four: The Golden Lion by Mike Maihack

Published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, June 27, 2017. Hardcover of 208 pages at $22.99 and softcover available of 206 pages at $12.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7. 

The cover: Cleo is on the snow world of Cada’duun, looking at the reader, one hand bracing herself on a rocky outcropping and the other holding her new and improved double bladed laser staff. To her immediate left is new ally, the snow otter Mihos, who’s happy to see the reader. Behind the pair is archaeologist/thief Antony, who has a slight smile on his face. Snow is coming down in a gale that’s causing her cape and his scarf to billow out behind them. Nice view of the three main players by Mike Maihack and shows them ready for action. If a reader picks this up and flips to the back, Ophois, the new villain of the book, is seen, about to thrust his staff into a piece of earth covered in yellow cracks. Again, a good tease of what’s to come. This is a solid cover, designed by Phil Falco. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the front jacket flap, “Cleo is back at Yasiro Academy, recovering from the tragic events that happened on planet Hykosis. She feels responsible for the death of her friend Zaid, and trains nonstop. And when she learns that the Golden Lion — a star with immeasurable energy that could destroy them all if weaponized — has been located, she goes alone to the snowy, icy planet Cada’duun to find it. There, she faces off with a new enemy who has been instructed to destroy the Golden Lion…and her.” This summarizes the first fifty-seven pages of the book, leaving out several details and leaving plenty of surprises for the reader. I enjoyed the first two books in this series and am looking forward to seeing what Cleo is up to. I must also include here that above this text is an original illustration of Cleo in her snow togs that’s not unlike Padame Amidala’s from Genndy Tartakovsky’s The Clone Wars series. It’s beautiful. Back to the premise, I’m looking forward to this book. Overall grade: A 

The characters: Cleo continues to be a fun character. She’s definitely got the moves as an action hero, which she demonstrates in her first appearance, but she’s still immature enough to make incorrect decisions, like go to class and know when to say something. She listens to her friends, Akila and Brian, and seeks out their advice, but she’ll leap to action instead of thinking out the repercussions of her decisions. She teams with Antony in this novel, and they have a shaky relationship, since he is a thief. However, they do work together in the end, resulting with her doing something surprising on 189. Akila’s parents appear, spurring on this story and accidentally revealing her childhood nickname in front of Cleo, which she will forever be stuck with by her friend. Brian provides technological help for Cleo and continues to pine for her, but does make an exciting reappearance by the end of the book. Antony is a character that Cleo despises, but she has to lean on him for help, and he on her, resulting in their relationship changing, though the final six pages change him yet again; Maihack is doing an exceptional job in surprising the reader with Antony’s actions. New character Mihos, the snow otter, appears to help Cleo, and if he were a plush doll, he would sell millions. He’s cute, funny, smart, and when something bad happens to him readers will undoubtedly gasp. The villain of the book is Ophois, assigned to track down Cleo because Xaius Ocatavian has made such a wreck of things in the previous book. Xaius is not happy with this, but relents to his master’s bidding. Ophois doesn’t say much, but his presence speaks volumes: he’s big, buff, strong, fast, and single minded of purpose. He’s great. Maihack has created a terrific cast of characters that continue to evolve. Overall grade: A+

The settings: Maihack expands his universe in the opening pages when the Golden Lion first appears. These settings are quickly seen, but I’d love to return to them. The book then moves to Mayet, where the Yasiro Academy and Pharaoh Yasiro’s Research And Military Initiative of Defense is located. This book doesn’t go to any classes, instead visiting a training room, the Council Room, and Brian’s work room. I never tire of visiting Brian’s space, which is always filled with something interesting to look at, with two fun Easter Eggs for Star Wars and Who fans. The main setting is Cada’duun, which is a very frozen and inhospitable world. More time is spent in caves than on the surface of the world, with Pages 124 and 125 being a complete surprise and a wonderful location. Discussing it would spoil it, but it’s fantastic. These locations are terrific. Overall grade: A+

The action: This is a fast moving book. If a reader is reluctant, this is the book for them, as there’s always some epic action every ten pages or so. The first big sequence begins with Cleo training and it’s outstanding. The first threat she discovers on Cada’duun is epic. It’s as thrilling as anything one would find in any science fiction novel or film. Things get intense when Ophois finds her. The climax of the book is very thrilling and would be a budget buster for a movie adaptation. This book has plenty of action to keep any reader, of any age, entertained. Overall grade: A+

The art: Mike Maihack is not only this book’s writer, but he’s also the artist. His visuals are superb. I stopped often while reading this book to really pour over the images. The opening fall of the Golden Lion was great, with other worlds watching it descend. The battles are awesome, with panels going jagged or diagonal to show a physical stress on even the art. The fight with the baby on Cada’duun is excellent and one-upped by Ophois’s arrival and battle. I could have spent twice the time in the location that first appears on 124 and 125, with its settings sumptuous and the denizens wonderful; the party scene there is a particular stand out. The final battle is excellent — epic and easy to follow, at times reminding me of storyboard work for films. And I confess to doodling some of the characters, I was so taken by them. Color flatting on this book was done by Dan Conner and Kate Carleton. Their work certainly helps bring this book to life, with the colors making the world, creatures, and people come to life in gorgeous colors. The visuals on this book can be appreciated by anyone of any age. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: Wow! One character has new things study, another gets a new friend, another mends a broken relationship, and those last six pages — Wow! Talk about a way to end a book! This ending had me screaming to know what happens next. Outstanding conclusion. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A fun, action filled story with beautiful visuals make this an absolute winner. Perfect reading for reluctant readers and those who look to the stars. I can’t wait for the next adventure. Recommended. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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