by Alaya Dawn Johnson ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 21, 2020
A sad, lovely, and blood-soaked song of a book.
The fates of three people intertwine in a World War II–era New York where some people of color are blessed and cursed with magic in their hands.
Phyllis, a light-skinned African American woman who can “pass” under many circumstances, has impossibly dexterous hands that wield murderous knives in the service of Victor, a Russian mob boss, and believes her kills serve justice. Her once and future lover, Dev, a half-Indian undercover cop posing as Victor’s bartender, whose own hands can sense threats to himself and others, can’t quite reconcile his feelings for Phyllis with his duty to a department that will never truly accept him as one of them. And Phyllis’ best friend, Tamara, an African American snake dancer and aspiring impresario at Victor’s club, with an oracular gift of reading cards, hopes that if she pretends she doesn’t notice the violent foundation of Victor’s empire, it won’t touch her. But the truths that each refuses to acknowledge and the death-haunted pasts that refuse to stay buried have dangerous implications for all three of them, both on the streets of New York City and in the supposedly quiet Hudson Valley town where Dev, Phyllis, and Tamara take an uncertain refuge. Johnson’s secret history is a nuanced portrait of racism in all of its poisonous flavors, brutally overt and unsuccessfully covert. She explores in deeper detail an issue she touched upon in her two YA novels, The Summer Prince (2013) and Love Is the Drug (2014): the incredibly fraught, liminal space of being a light-skinned person of color. In musical prose, she also offers passionate and painful depictions of the love expressed in romance and friendship and the sacrifices such love can demand.A sad, lovely, and blood-soaked song of a book.
Pub Date: July 21, 2020
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020
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by Brandon Sanderson ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2023
Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A fantasy adventure with a sometimes-biting wit.
Tress is an ordinary girl with no thirst to see the world. Charlie is the son of the local duke, but he likes stories more than fencing. When the duke realizes the two teenagers are falling in love, he takes Charlie away to find a suitable wife—and returns with a different young man as his heir. Charlie, meanwhile, has been captured by the mysterious Sorceress who rules the Midnight Sea, which leaves Tress with no choice but to go rescue him. To do that, she’ll have to get off the barren island she’s forbidden to leave, cross the dangerous Verdant Sea, the even more dangerous Crimson Sea, and the totally deadly Midnight Sea, and somehow defeat the unbeatable Sorceress. The seas on Tress’ world are dangerous because they’re not made of water—they’re made of colorful spores that pour down from the world’s 12 stationary moons. Verdant spores explode into fast-growing vines if they get wet, which means inhaling them can be deadly. Crimson and midnight spores are worse. Ships protected by spore-killing silver sail these seas, and it’s Tress’ quest to find a ship and somehow persuade its crew to carry her to a place no ships want to go, to rescue a person nobody cares about but her. Luckily, Tress is kindhearted, resourceful, and curious—which also makes her an appealing heroine. Along her journey, Tress encounters a talking rat, a crew of reluctant pirates, and plenty of danger. Her story is narrated by an unusual cabin boy with a sharp wit. (About one duke, he says, “He’d apparently been quite heroic during those wars; you could tell because a great number of his troops had died, while he lived.”) The overall effect is not unlike The Princess Bride, which Sanderson cites as an inspiration.Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.
Pub Date: April 4, 2023
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023
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by Hannah Kaner ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
An un-put-down-able start to an engrossing low-fantasy trilogy bordering on grimdark.
In a kingdom that slaughtered the gods and criminalized their worship, two god-slayers—a mercenary and a knight—join forces on a pilgrimage to save two other lives.
Years ago, Kissen lost her leg after the people of her village shifted their allegiance to a fire god and burned her family home to the ground. Only a desperate bargain with the sea god her father served saved her life. Now she works as a veiga: a state-sanctioned killer of gods. Under young King Arren's rule, all forms of worship have become illegal, as it is humans' faith that gives birth to the gods and powers them. A series of violent events leaves Kissen as sole protector to Inara, a young girl orphaned by fire and treachery and bound to a small, shrineless god called Skedi. Together, the three must journey to Blenraden, the city where the gods died, to sever Inara and Skedi's connection. Unbeknownst to Kissen and her charges, another godkiller walks in their midst. Knight-turned-baker Elo witnessed the carnage in Blenraden firsthand. It cost him everything. His mothers left the kingdom in the war's aftermath, unwilling to give up their faith. Then the king waltzes back into his orbit, afflicted with a deadly curse. Elo must join the next pilgrimage he can find—Kissen's pilgrimage—if he wants to save his old friend. No sooner has the group set out for the dead city than a god-summoned monster attacks their caravan, forcing Kissen and Elo to reveal their capabilities—and their godkilling weapons as well. In addition to being exquisitely paced and character-driven, Kaner's novel features a widely diverse cast. Queerness does not draw ridicule in Kaner's invented world, and Kissen is bisexual. Many secondary and tertiary characters are queer. Both heroes and two secondary characters have disabilities; he's living with PTSD, while she's an amputee and ambulatory wheelchair user with a handcrafted metal leg. One secondary character also uses a wheelchair, and another is deaf. Elo is coded as Black. Inara and several tertiary characters are coded as nonwhite. Kissen is white, and Skedi is a fantasy creature resembling a jackalope.An un-put-down-able start to an engrossing low-fantasy trilogy bordering on grimdark.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023
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