Indelible characters, both good and evil, and a rescue storyline that refuses to dawdle.

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Kalifus Rising

From the Legends of Orkney series , Vol. 2

In this second installment of a YA fantasy series, a boy’s friends rush to save him before a teen witch surrenders to dark magic.

Thirteen-year-old Sam Barconian, once a typical boy in Pilot Rock, Oregon, is battling evil witches in the Ninth Realm, Orkney. A descendant of both god Odin and he-witch Rubicus, Sam has the potential to become powerful but is still learning how to wield his magic. Unfortunately, he’s an ideal weapon for witch Catriona, who craves vengeance, having long ago witnessed Odin kill her father, Rubicus. She wants Sam on her side to kill Odin, which will likewise return Orkney to Earth, separated by the god for fear that magic would destroy the world. Meanwhile, Odin summons Sam’s Earth pals, Keely, Howie, and Leo, to Orkney. To see which path to take, Keely drinks from sage Mimir’s well, with an ensuing vision giving the trio ominous roles: she as The Seeker; Howie, Orkney’s Protector; and Leo, The Sacrifice. Keely further knows that Sam’s a captive of Catriona, who convinces him his friends’ futures are dire. Eventually succumbing to her persuasion, he becomes Kalifus, a servant of Catriona and her sister witches. At the same time, Keely searches for the Moon Pearl that reputedly can defeat the witches and pull Sam away from the darkness. The animated tale opens with action and ends in kind. Adams (The Egg Thief, 2016, etc.) is a master of exposition, never letting it slow the narrative by immersing it in rapid-fire dialogue: Keely learns of the pearl in a scene involving multiple characters—and squabbling from impetuous witch Mavery. Sam, whose discovery of his origin in The Red Sun (2015) was the series’ catalyst, is less of a protagonist this time, teetering between hero and villain, with his rescue driving the plot. But Keely handles the lead with panache, facing the same dilemmas as Sam, like struggling to understand her own magic (courtesy of Mimir’s drink). Leo’s inclusion adds suspense (will he be sacrificed?), while Howie serves as comic relief, asserting that Odin, in designating him Protector, was “just being optimistic about [his] prospects.” The Norse mythology–infused story also features a surprise appearance by a much more recognizable individual.

Indelible characters, both good and evil, and a rescue storyline that refuses to dawdle.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-940716-84-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Spark Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2016

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Few chills and even less logic.

BENT HEAVENS

Can Liv put the pieces of her life back together after her father’s mental breakdown?

In rural Bloughton, Iowa, Liv takes solace in the cross country team and the idea that she will be off to college before too long. Three years ago, her father, the high school’s former English and drama teacher, vanished only to return naked and talking about alien abduction. He disappeared for good eight months later. Liv and her friend Doug check the elaborate traps her father built in the woods during those eight months every Sunday. The teacher who replaced him decides to stage the same musical that was her father’s swan song, and after getting in trouble for an outburst over her insensitivity, Liv decides to destroy the traps…but discovers that one has caught an alien. After hiding the horrifying creature in her father’s shed, they discover it has her father’s compass. In anger, Liv attacks the beast and then she and Doug torture it repeatedly as revenge for her missing father…but the alien is not what they perceive him to be, and as the truth is revealed, the horror mounts. Kraus’ (Blood Sugar, 2019, etc.) newest horror fantasy (there is no science here) might inspire more anger than horror as the protagonists respond to otherness with violence. Outrage will likely be followed by laughter at the stagy, manipulative, over-the-top conclusion. Most characters seem to be white.

Few chills and even less logic. (Horror. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-15167-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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