Based on true events, Thorley’s debut is somewhat forgettable but shows promise nonetheless.

AN AFFAIR OF POISONS

A teenage alchemist and a disgraced royal bastard scheme their way through a magical reimagining of pre-Revolutionary Paris.

Mirabelle is a provisional member of her mother’s Shadow Society, an underground group of nobles working to overthrow Louis XIV. A talented alchemist, she can create potions to ease suffering or cause horrific death. Unbeknownst to her—and to her horror and dismay—the Society uses her skill to assassinate the king. Josse is one of the Sun King’s illegitimate children, resentful of his half brother the dauphin, and in the chaos caused by his father’s death, he flees Versailles with his siblings. Told in alternating perspectives, Mira and Josse try to stay alive, to quell the chaos plaguing Paris, and to use their strengths and abilities for good instead of ill. An author’s note discusses the real-life Affair of Poisons and Catherine Monvoisin, called a “Duchess Among Witches” and portrayed here as a sinister, heartless villain. There’s enough in here to interest readers with a taste for fantastical historical fiction, alchemy, and political machinations, but flat characterization and a flatter romance keep this from a broader appeal. Descriptions of mysterious illnesses, deadly smoke creatures, and villainous nobles liven the story but can only carry the uninspired writing so far. Two minor characters are described as brown-skinned; others are assumed white.

Based on true events, Thorley’s debut is somewhat forgettable but shows promise nonetheless. (author’s note, additional reading) (Historical fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62414-713-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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An accomplished, exciting debut.

ALL THE STARS AND TEETH

From the All the Stars and Teeth series , Vol. 1

A princess embarks on a dangerous path to the throne.

In the island kingdom of Visidia, where each person is allowed just one type of magic, only the members of the royal Montara family have the ability to wield the dangerous soul magic. Princess Amora is next in line to be High Animancer, but she must first prove to her people that she is powerful enough to use her magic to protect them. But something goes terribly wrong during a critical public ceremony, and Amora runs away with dashing pirate Bastian, whose rescue comes with a price: She must help him recover his own magic, stolen away by a dangerous man leading a growing rebellion that could bring down the whole kingdom. Debut author Grace wields her own magic with a skillful balancing act between high-stakes adventure (here there be monsters, mermaids, and high-seas shenanigans), bloody fantasy, and character development in a story with a lovable found family at its core. Amora yearns for adventure just as she welcomes her right to command her kingdom; her ferocious sense of duty and legitimate need to do good shine through. The novel’s further unravelling of dark secrets long kept comes with a recognized need for accountability and making amends which adds a thoughtful extra layer to the rich worldbuilding. Amora has copper-brown skin and dark, curly hair; other characters have a range of skin tones in this diverse world.

An accomplished, exciting debut. (guide to the kingdom) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30778-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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