The Candy Shop War is a children's/young adult fantasy novel by Brandon Mull, who also wrote Fablehaven. If you're familiar with the latter, you probably know what you're in for here: Quirky, Genre Savvy children'sYoung At Heart'sUrban Fantasy with a striking amount of darkness.Cynical Nate is the new kid in the tiny town of Colson, California. On his first day, he has the good luck to fall in with the Blue Falcons, a group of friends with a nondescript club (It's gone from treasure-hunting to tresspassing and more). Clever Trevor, fearless Summer, and brainy Pigeon (real name: Paul) quickly come to like snarky Nate, and accept him into the club after he charges local bullies Denny, Kyle, and Eric. Nate isn't the only new thing in town, though: There's also a new candy shop, the Sweet Tooth Ice Cream and Candy Shoppe. The kids stop in for some candy after a rough first day at school, and are pleased to find that the shopkeeper, Ms. White, is as kindly as she is good at making candy. But she accidentally lets slip word of "Secret Candy." What's this now? She promises she'll tell them if they ask again after getting to know her more. So they do a few chores for her shop. She gives them a "special assignment:" Go get some beetle eggs in mushrooms. They do, and she gives them a taste.The "special candy" is magical. The first confection she gives them: Moon Rocks, which allow the person eating them to jump great distances. She's a magician, and she manufactures these magical sweets. She's not the only one in town. To say nothing of the guy who shows up in town to hunt magicians...If the cutesy premise (magical candy that gives kids superpowers!) sounds sweet and fluffy... Don't be fooled. Things will get much, much worse before the end, and our four Kid Heroes will quickly find themselves in far over their head...The sequel, The Arcade Catastrophe, takes place one year after the events of the original. A new family fun center, called Arcadeland, opens up in Colson, and many local kids seem to be addicted to trying to collect tickets from the machines. The Blue Falcons, now Genre Savvy, quickly figure out that a new magician is in town and trying to recruit children to their ends. This would be suspicious enough, except that two extremely powerful people have just gone missing: John Dart, who polices nefarious magicians, and Mozag, the most powerful magician in the world. The Blue Falcons quickly connect the dots, and soon find themselves dragged into a new web of magical mayhem: This magician gives out ink stamps which bestow powerful effects. The problem? There are many, many other kids who've been taken in. And while the Falcons know what magicians are capable of, these new kids aren't...This book provides examples of:
Adults Are Useless: The parents are under the effects of white fudge, so they can't help even when Nate realizes he might need them.Subverted later on with Mr. Stott and John Dart.
Ambiguously Brown: Trevor. He's described as "olive-skinned," and his mother is somewhat darker. He's not white, because when he eats an ethnicity-swapping Melting Pot Mixer, he's turned into a freckly redhead. But he could be anything, really.
This trope is a major cornerstone of her character development in the sequel. When she finally does learn the truth, she is horrified... but she realizes that her past doesn't have to define her and that she can become anyone she wants to. She even thanks Nate for giving her a second chance.
Body Horror: The Flatman. Unholy combination of man and flounder, floating in formaldahyde. * shudder* The Slopgut probably counts, too.
Bound and Gagged: Happens to quite a lot of poeple later in the book, both hero and villain, kid and adult. As in, it happens to both good adult characters and bad ones, the kid heroes and the bullies. Yup.
Brick Joke: In the very first chapter, John complains about needing a better job. The final chapter is entitled, "Better Jobs for John." Geriatric nurse, cab-driver, coyote-caretaker, babysitter...
Cassandra Truth: When Nate occupies the body of the hobo, none of his friends believe his warnings about the future.
In the sequel, none of the other kids are generally willing to listen to the Blue Falcon's warnings about magicians.
Catch Phrase: Pigeon's "I just like to read books about [INSERT TOPIC HERE]!"
Chekhov's Gun: "It's not everyone who gets a chance to start over with a Clean Slate!"
Covers Always Lie: The scene depicted on the cover of the cover of the second book doesn't actually happen. Well, it does, but it's merely heavily implied, and only at the very end of the book—literally, just before the epilogue.
Deadpan Snarker: Nate; the other kids actually have to tell him to actually lighten up on his friends from time to time.
And John, for great justice.
Distressed Dude: John Dart and Mozag spend a great deal of the second book kidnapped.
Fantastic Aesop: Actually used in-story. A character actually says "Don't take candy from strangers, because it could be magically enchanted candy," and just about everyone reacts with "...Yeah, like that'll ever happen."
Joined to this is the more realistic moral that just because someone seems to be nice and offers gifts, it doesn't mean they necessarily have one's best interests in mind.
Fire, Ice, Lightning: The three main types of offensive candy they use are Shock Bits, Flame Outs, and Frost Bites. You can probably guess from the names which ones each confirms to.
Flying Brick: In the finale of the second book, Lindy and Chris become these by combining Jet stamps with Tank stamps.
Girls Have Cooties: Played as a throwaway joke. A boy changes bodies and becomes a girl, and considers that he'd have to get himself checked out for cooties sometime. Later, this same fifth-grade boy finds a certain girl to be cute, so apparently he was only joking about the cooties.
May Contain Evil: White fudge. Ironically, if you've never had the real deal before, you may be hankering for a taste once you set this book down.
Nacho cheese in the sequel. Due to their past experiences, they figure this out right away. Turns out it's an old White family recipe.
Nature Versus Nurture: In the early parts of the sequel, some of the characters are still wondering about Lindy, and if a new magician being in town will trigger her to start acting cruelly again, and if she is somehow, inherently, evil. In fact, the phrase "nature versus nurture" is explicitly brought up. Not only has Mr. Stott been bringing her up right, when she learns of her past, she realizes how lucky she's been to get to start over, and is overjoyed that she's no longer a horrible person. So it's "nurture" after all.
Overprotective Dad: Mr. Stott over his adopted daughter, Lindy, in the sequel. But he isn't just worried about her safety— he's worried that Jonas White may have found some way of restoring her memories, and making her remember that she used to be Mrs. White.
Pay Evil unto Evil: Of the "Let's give these bullies a taste of their own medicine" variety.
Power Degeneration: One type of Apprentice has this—they have birthmarks which get bigger as they use their powers, and they die when it covers their entire body.
Reality Changing Miniature: The powers of a Simulacrist: They can build miniatures which allow them to change the world by changing the miniature.
Uweya is one of these for the entire world.
Required Secondary Powers: Actually repeatedly brought up—such as a gravity-enhancing treat reinforcing bodies (so they don't crush in the enhanced pull), or Pigeon mulling over all the extra things the Brain Feed must do to make animals act so intelligently.
In the sequel, the required secondary powers of the Tank stamps are brought up and used almost as frequently as the main effect (making kids really strong and tough).
Similar Squad: Roman, Chris, and Marisa in the sequel are similar to Nate, Trevor, Summer and Pigeon, especially in the position they find themselves in and the way they react.
Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom: The tower of the Protector and the hall leading to Uweya in the sequel is full of them. Only the Tanks, with their super-endurance, can make it through.
Stealth Pun: Each "club" of kids in the sequel are named after their stamps, and Jonas brings up that the Jets are "just like West Side Story.]] The pun comes once they claim the Submarine's stamps, which let them fly and swim... effectively making them Jets and Sharks.
Surprise Creepy: Look at that kid-friendly, carefree cover. Now highlight the spoilers.
Synchronization: The family of Haag and the key to the room that holds the Fountain of Youth. Gary mentions once that in order to teach him the importance of keeping the key safe, his uncle threw it in a sink, and they both starting drowning on dry land.