The adventure continues in Chee’s second installment of the Sea of Ink and Gold series.
Sefia and Archer have escaped the Guard, but the danger is far from over. They are still being hunted, and their past and future, slowly being revealed by the Book, are catching up to them. Struggling to accept the dark truths of their pasts, Sefia and Archer embark on a crusade to eliminate all the impressors and free the boys whom, like Archer, the impressors have kidnapped and brutally trained to kill. Meanwhile, the pirate Reed and his colorful crew are derailed from their pursuit of eternal glory when they find out the Blue Navy is threatening their way of life by hunting and eliminating their fellow outlaws at sea. New characters are introduced, and with them, more secrets are revealed. Chee’s skill at managing complex storylines shines through as stories upon stories meet and intertwine in startling ways. Throughout it all, Sefia delves deeper into the book and her parents’ past for clues of her and Archer’s future. What she finds will catapult them into an even more dangerous and impossible mission. The novel features a diverse cast of characters, and Sefia has East Asian features.
Filled with even more magic and intrigue than its predecessor, this is a gripping follow-up that will leave readers speculating and wanting more.
Croggon takes readers back 50 years before the four original books in her Pellinor series for this prequel about a malevolent spirit breaking into the World.
Cadvan, a mentor in the Books of Pellinor, is much younger here. He’s living in a mining village, having been exiled from Barding for an act born of arrogant, immature jealousy: he summoned a Revenant, the titular Bone Queen, with sorcery and lost control of her. An arduous banishment seemed to cast her out, but she merely split apart, like Mercury—with some parts finding their ways inside people. The protagonists—Cadvan; his old peer, Dernhil; their mentor, Nelac; and Selmana, a probably teenage Minor Bard and apprentice to the humors of earth, metal, and stone—are given deeply humane characterizations and complex interpersonal histories. Together they tackle the cryptic, soul-breaking task of suppressing the Bone Queen. The Dark threatens; the “tissue between the Circles is broken,” opening ways for evil to seep through; and the Bone Queen stalks Selmana with a “suffocating pall of malice.” Croggon’s humbly exquisite prose weaves splendor into everything, from spells of magery and the frightening, otherworldly realm that the protagonists must tread to the regular World’s aesthetic beauty and human emotion (grief, shame, terror, trauma). No pain is romanticized. Either direction of reading—this first, or the original quartet first—will hold beauty. The protagonists here (unlike in the earlier books) are white.
Magnificent yet intimate, dark yet tender.
It’s been nine months since the last Dreadnought was blown apart and he transferred the mantle—and the responsibilities—to teenager Danny Tozer, and she’s already world-weary.
On a never-ending cycle of thwarting supervillains, dealing with local police, going over interviews with her lawyer/publicist, Danny keeps to herself how the one thing that she loves the most about the job is the fight. She sinks into the violence, feeling a bite of disappointment when she wins too quickly. The first book’s arc showed the white protagonist’s growth from a terrified trans teen to a powerful, revered superhero who physically resembles her truest self. This sequel drops readers at a waypoint where Danny’s physically comfortable and finding her place among her fellow “capes,” but her physical strength allows long-standing emotional damage to come thundering to the surface. Healing from a lifetime of emotional abuse, Danny has anger issues and tunnel vision that cause her to unknowingly hurt others or not to notice her own insensitivity. This complex is brilliantly threaded through an intense conflict against a billionaire supervillain and one of the more sinister of her old foes, not to mention some challenging subplots. Daniels’ world expands to include even more exciting capes, including a successor to an old friend and a brilliant, nonbinary cape called Kinetiq.
Daniels doesn’t just perfectly “queer the capes,” she delivers a book that’s tightly packed with brilliantly rendered fights, nail-biting scenes of peril, emotional authenticity, and a perfect first kiss. (Science fiction. 12-adult)
Danny's having a moment to herself when superfamous superhero Dreadnought drops out of the sky and dies in her arms—but not before passing her his powers.
The powers transform her body, so her girlhood—once a total secret—is now visually impossible to hide. Guilt and elation jostle for prime position in her head as she deals with getting her dream body and massive power she can't yet control. She's taken to meet Dreadnought's colleagues (some welcoming, some not) in the Legion Pacifica and gets some answers to burning questions. But when the supervillain that killed her predecessor shows her intentions to bring destruction on humanity, Danny has to make decisions she thought she'd have more time to work out. Daniels has captured the alternating bursts of confidence and vulnerability often present in 15-year-olds with mentally abusive fathers and unsupportive mothers; she threads it through a superhero story with a beautifully paced plot that has no problematic snags to interrupt the flow. There are men both disappointing and noble, but the women and girls—white trans girl Danny, Latina crime fighter Calamity, technician/scientist Doc Impossible (racially cued only with a long black braid), and cyborg supervillain Utopia—drive the story and the action. Mutual respect among the characters, crucially combined with Daniels' respect for them, ensures that none serve as mere props for our protagonist, and readers will hope they each get their own book in the coming series.
A thoroughly enjoyable, emotionally rich, action-packed story with the most exciting new superheroes in decades. Unmissable.
(Science fiction. 14-adult)
As infighting grips Efea’s Saroese royalty, its neighbors move to invade their weakened adversary; unable to dissuade her Patron father and sweetheart Kal from defending the corrupt regime, Jes sides with her mother’s people, native Efeans now reclaiming their land.
The rift between her parents has widened, but both disapprove of Jes’ relationship with Kal, and their fears are heightened when he reluctantly takes the throne. In this rigid ethnocracy, biracial Jes is considered a “mule” by contemptuous Patrons, a traitor by resentful Commoners. Kal’s go-slow plans to raise Commoner standing anger Jes—she knows it’s too late for small steps. Leaving Kal, she’s kidnapped, badly injured, and sent to the desert, where Efeans and criminals of both castes mine ore under brutal conditions. Plotting their escape keeps her alive. Their Saroese overlords won’t voluntarily abandon caste and privilege; to reclaim their decentralized, matriarchal society, Efeans must fight. Gifted with her mother’s patience and father’s military prowess, Jes proves an exceptional leader. Sustaining the Patron aristocracy exacts a high price—but so do the sacrifice and compromises required to overthrow it. Magic and religion, patriarchy versus matriarchy, hierarchical versus decentralized government; these themes are all seamlessly integrated into the action-packed plot.
High-fantasy series rarely attract serious literary scrutiny, yet when done well—as here—no genre is better fitted to trace the threads of history from past to present and explore the fascinating patterns they weave.
Sierra and the shadowshapers are back in this sequel to Shadowshaper (2015).
A few months after the close of Shadowshaper, Nuyorican Sierra Santiago has grown in her shadowshaping powers but feels overwhelmed by her new role as Lucera, head of Shadowhouse. One night in Prospect Park, a girl from school attempts to give Sierra a creepy playing card from the Deck of Worlds, warning Sierra that the Deck is in play again and the Sorrows (who tried to wipe out the shadowshapers in the last book) are out to get them once more. Meanwhile, Older paints a compelling picture of contemporary life for black and brown teens in cities: Afro-Latinx Sierra and her friends deal with police harassment and brutality, both on the streets of Bed-Stuy and at school, themes that feel especially timely and relevant. When Sierra learns the Sorrows want her to join them in order to complete their magic, she must take a dangerous chance in order to protect herself and those that she loves. Older excels at crafting teen dialogue that feels authentic, and props to everyone involved for not othering the Spanish language. This second volume features a tighter plot and smoother pacing than the first, and the ending will leave readers eagerly awaiting the further adventures of Sierra and her friends.
Taj, the black teenage narrator of Onyebuchi’s debut, is an aki, or sin-eater—meaning that he literally consumes the exorcised transgressions of others, usually in the forms of inky-colored animal-shaped phantasms called inisisas that reappear as black tattoos on the akis’ “red skin, brown skin.”
This really isn’t his most remarkable trait, however, even as he ingests greater and greater sins of the Kaya, the brown-skinned royal family ruling the land of Kos. What makes Taj extraordinary is the tensions he holds: his blasé awareness of his exalted status as the best aki, even as the townspeople both shun yet exploit him and his chosen family of sin-eaters; his adolescent swagger coupled with the big-brotherly protectiveness he has for the crew of akis and, as the story proceeds, his increasing responsibility to train them; his natural skepticism of the theology that guides Kos even as he performs the very act that allows the theology—and Kos itself—to exist. He must navigate these in the midst of a political plot, a burgeoning star-crossed love, and forgiveness for the sins he does not commit. “Epic” is an overused term to describe how magnificent someone or something is. Author Onyebuchi’s novel creates his in the good old-fashioned way: the slow, loving construction of the mundane and the miraculous, building a world that is both completely new and instantly recognizable.
This tale moves beyond the boom-bang, boring theology of so many fantasies—and, in the process, creates, almost griotlike, a paean to an emerging black legend
. (Fantasy. 14-adult)
A paranormal private investigator and his clever companion make a last stand against the forces of chaos in this fourth and final book.
As an assistant to eccentric detective/seer R.F. Jackaby, Abigail Rook experiences magic, mysteries, and romance. A “lady of science and reason” who accepts the supernatural, Rook prizes her madcap American adventures over her comfortable yet confining British childhood, but she finds her new home threatened by war. As a wave of racist attacks turns their whimsical house at 926 Augur Ln. into a cryptozoological asylum, Jackaby, Rook, and resident ghost Jenny Cavanaugh take a new case and uncover a bigger conspiracy. Hunting mythical talismans, the trio discovers the veil between the mundane world and that of the Annwyn (fae) weakening and the Unseelie armies of the Dire King gathering. Jackaby is a delightful supernaturalist Sherlock, but Rook carries the story, narrating with dry wit, alliteration, and an appreciation for the absurd; faced with war, bureaucrats, and a diabolical life-sucking machine, Rook frets about a potential proposal from her Om Caini (lycanthropic) swain, Charlie. Ritter sets his story in a geographically nonspecific, slightly steampunk 1890s New England port city. It’s helmed by a trio of white protagonists but offers a pointed and timely message about pluralism and the value of bridges over barriers.
A humorous, energetic, action-packed, and magical conclusion.
Caroline Oresteia, a wherryman’s daughter and granddaughter, knows that she’s meant for the river—but at age 17, she has yet to hear the voice of the god at its bottom.
When pirates burn several wherries, Caro’s smuggler father is arrested. To gain back his freedom—and maybe attract the god’s attention—Caro agrees to use her father’s wherry to transport a mysterious cargo: a young man named Tarquin Meredios who claims to be a royal courier. Pompous and overbearing, highborn Tarquin sneers at both Caro and wherrymen. But as he and Caro change course from Caro’s contracted destination to one Tarquin insists on, he grows on both her and readers. Caro’s narrative voice is smart and colloquial; worldbuilding details are imparted naturally through dialogue and her reflections on it. Caro describes herself as having a mixed heritage, noting the varying shades of brown in her relatives from her mother’s side. Most of the other, presumably white characters’ skin tones are not described, with pale Tarquin’s “strange foreign coloring” a notable exception. The frogmen, descendants of the river god and a sailor’s daughter, have brownish-green skin; Fee, a taciturn female frogman, works for Caro’s father. Caro’s description of her boat home, the Cormorant, will make even readers unfamiliar with sailing feel as though they belong on the water with her.
Tolcser blends the right amount of epic fantasy, sea voyage, and romance for a rollicking, swashbuckling adventure. (Fantasy. 14-18)