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

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. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018


Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023


A dark and gripping feminist tale.

A young woman faces her past to discover the truth about one of her nation’s heroes.

When Effy Sayre, the only female architecture student at her university in Llyr, wins the competition to design Hiraeth Manor for the estate of the late Emrys Myrddin, national literary figure and her favorite author, it is the perfect opportunity to leave behind a recent trauma. She arrives to find the cliffside estate is literally crumbling into the ocean, and she quickly realizes things may not be as they seem. Preston, an arrogant literature student, is also working at the estate, gathering materials for the university’s archives and questioning everything Effy knows about Myrddin. When Preston offers to include her name on his thesis—which may allow her to pursue the dream of studying literature that was frustrated by the university’s refusal to admit women literature students—Effy agrees to help him. He’s on a quest for answers about the source of Myrddin’s most famous work, Angharad, a romance about a cruel Fairy King who marries a mortal woman. Meanwhile, Myrddin’s son has secrets of his own. Preston and Effy start to suspect that Myrddin’s fairy tales may hold more truth than they realize. The Welsh-inspired setting is impressively atmospheric, and while some of the mythology ends up feeling extraneous, the worldbuilding is immersive and thoughtfully addresses misogyny and its effects on how history is written. Main characters are cued white.

A dark and gripping feminist tale. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9780063211506

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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