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SKY BREAKER

From the Night Spinner series , Vol. 2

An expansive, highly rewarding read.

On the heels of Night Spinner (2020), Enebish leads a ragtag band against the Sky King while Ghoa’s beliefs are challenged.

Although Night Spinner Enebish and newly awakened Sun Stoker Serik successfully led the desperate shepherds to Verdenet, finding the hiding king is far more difficult. Enebish’s psychological wounds from being betrayed in the past are still raw, resulting in behaviors that don’t do her any favors when dealing with her increasingly reluctant followers. In Ghoa’s parallel narration, she is forced to reckon with her own feelings of being betrayed, especially as Zemya’s trap springs into action and she takes the brunt of it. Enebish seeks out logical allies while Ghoa strikes an odd partnership, all the while keeping her eye on the prize. Uniting both storylines is the common enemy—Kartok—and the reveal of the full extent of his scheme. Their stories are gracefully balanced, enabling readers to explore more of the lavishly painted worldbuilding and internal mythologies. Characters’ past hurts inform their present decisions, good and bad, creating tension in relation to decisions of trust and forgiveness. The geopolitical situation blends well with the cultural. Ethnicity follows national lines, with Zemyans being very pale and blond; Verdenese like Enebish dark-haired with golden skin; and Ashkarians like Ghoa and her cousin, Serik (Enebish’s love interest in a sweetly romantic subplot), falling in between, with tanned skin and freckles. The conclusion thoroughly wraps up the duology.

An expansive, highly rewarding read. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64567-130-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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BLOOD AT THE ROOT

From the Blood at the Root series , Vol. 1

A well-thought-out magical world that provocatively centers Black experiences.

Black diaspora magic manifests in a boy on the worst day of his life—but later, things only get more complicated.

When Malik Baron was 7, his mother vanished in the explosive moment his powers manifested while he defended them from mysterious cloaked figures. Ten years (and many foster homes later), the short-tempered Malik isn’t much better at controlling his powers, but he’s ready to leave Helena, Alabama, and start over with Taye, his foster brother. Reuniting with Mama Aya, the maternal grandmother in New Orleans he never knew, wasn’t part of the plan, but fate draws Malik to her—and into a secret world of magic. He discovers Caiman University—a sort of magical historically Black college—which may be where he’ll find answers to what happened to his mother. Narrator Malik, who uses colorful language, is fully aware of the Black Harry Potter subtext of his story, and he’s thoughtfully focused on protecting Taye, proving his mother is still alive, and surviving in a world that has never made things easy, even before supernatural threats emerged. The extensive worldbuilding incorporates West African, Caribbean, and Black American history and cultures to explain a magical reality hidden from view and relevant to the Black diaspora and Malik’s family history. When Malik bumps into an old friend and potential love interest on campus, everything is in place for him to grow into his powers, uncover the truth, and face new heartbreak.

A well-thought-out magical world that provocatively centers Black experiences. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780593711927

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Labyrinth Road

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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