In Review: Cleopatra in Space — Book Two: The Thief and the Sword

Spectacular science fiction action that will please all ages.

Cleopatra in Space — Book Two: The Thief and the Sword by Mike Maihack

Published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, April 28, 2015. Paperback of 192 pages at $12.99 or hardcover of 192 pages at $22.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7.

The cover: Underneath the author’s name and the series’ title, barefoot Cleopatra holds a laser gun ready to use on the thief that’s stolen her sword. Just below her is Khensu, one of the book’s intelligent cats, who appears startled by the thief’s actions. The book number and subtitle is below this image by author/artist Mike Maihack, with the design of the cover by Phil Falco. This image sets up the first part of the book in excellent fashion. I like the tough look on the lead’s face, yet looks vulnerable with just her period garb, while the thief is dressed for business. Overall grade: A+

The premise: From the back cover, “A mysterious thief has stolen the ancient sword Cleo recovered in Book One: Target Practice, and she’s determined to get it back. But her teachers at Yasiro Academy forbid her from risking her life, so she’s stuck at school, trying to adjust to her newfound popularity and responsibility. And when she learns more about the prophecy that names her the savior of the galaxy, she must go on a dangerous journey to find the time tablets that could decide her fate…before they fall into the wrong hands!” This is an exciting summary that has me pumped to read this book. I read the first in this series and really enjoyed it, so I’m more than willing to go on another adventure with Cleo. The problem with this summary is that it tells everything that happens in the book. Outside of the action, which spoiled every major plot point. Premises should never spoil anything past the first 20% of a book. I’m still giving this category a high grade because if I’m reading a book for a review, I never read the premise until after I’ve finished it. Overall grade: A

The characters: It’s been six months since the previous book and protagonist Cleopatra still hasn’t adjusted to life in the future. She’s not comfortable being outgoing, like her friend Aikila, and she reacts to situations, often correctly, rather than thinking things through; the opening chapter of the book shows this trait. She learns of a prophecy involving her and momentarily wonders if she’s fated to fulfill it. Her friend Akila is as exuberant as she was in the previous book. She sets up a school dance in the opening chapter and she’s doing everything she can to make sure everyone is having a good time. However, she’s not a one dimensional character, as Maihack has a nice scene between her and Cleo that gives her some nice depth. Brian is the Hermione Granger of the group, appearing to give information, aka plot devices, to move the book forward, and he gets to join the group in their journey. Khensu the cat continues to be a delightful character; being teacher and conscience for Cleo. He’s my favorite supporting character and every page with him was a great one. The villains of the book are Xaius Octavian and the thief. Octavian only makes two appearances, but they are important ones. The thief, who gets a name two-thirds of the way in, starts off as Aladdin-esque, though changes by the end. His contact with the heroes doesn’t go beyond the novel’s first chapter, though I’m sure there’s more of him to come in future books. Overall grade: A 

The settings: There are only two in this installment: Octavian’s base and the planet Mayet, where the Yasiro Academy and Pharaoh Yasiro’s Research And Military Initiative of Defense are located. The secret base is shown only from the inside, as the thief tries to enter it. It’s your typical Bad Guy Base and has many minions and devices to keep intruders out. Mayet is great with settings, with plenty of futuristic eye candy, as well as what one would expect for a school. Very cool. Overall grade: A

The action: The first chapter of the book is predominantly all action as the thief is introduced and he attempts to steal the ancient sword. It’s a real page turner of a sequence and was thrilling for anyone of any age. The last half of the book is the plot which explains why the attempt was made on the sword and what and why Cleo has to get it. It’s not as riveting as the first half, but was still enjoyable. Overall grade: A-

The conclusion: This ends on a cliffhanger, with the heroes in dire straits. It’s the perfect place to end this installment, but will leave readers screaming for an instant resolution. I would encourage this in younger readers, creating the need for them to think of possible solutions before the next book comes out. Overall grade: A

The art: This is the perfect example of a graphic novel for younger readers. The visuals are exceptional, as they were in the first book, and the coloring bright and bold. The action of the opening chapter is like a storyboard for a film, with a sensational chase sequence that I had to go through twice to appreciate the layout and style with which Maihack does this action. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Spectacular science fiction action that will please all ages, and a story that will have the intended audience constantly guessing what Cleopatra is going to do next. Recommended. Overall grade: A

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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