An earnest first novel from a promising author.

DON'T CALL THE WOLF

Unlikely allies battle a dragon in this myth-inspired fantasy.

In a ravaged kingdom, a fierce golden dragon reigns supreme in the mountains after laying waste to the royal palace and devouring its occupants. Pestilence and darkness brought by its presence spread throughout the land, corrupting humans and drawing forth evil creatures. The kingdom’s only hope for survival lies in a shape-shifting queen of the forest and a wounded soldier from the mountains. Wolf-Lord Lukasz is the last survivor among his siblings; all nine of his brothers supposedly died trying to kill the Golden Dragon; Ren, the queen of the animals, distrusts humans for their past cruelties and prefers remaining in animal form. Alternating between chapters set in the past and present, the narrative introduces central characters who must overcome the pain of their personal histories before they can be heroes. In her debut novel, Ross pulls from various mythologies to create a world teeming with mystical creatures and lurking dangers. The novel is a page-turner that suffers from its own excesses; so many creatures are introduced in the story that it is difficult to keep them straight. Readers aren’t given sufficient time to bond with Ren and Lukasz as characters before they are swept into a grand adventure. Ren and Lukasz are pale skinned.

An earnest first novel from a promising author. (pronunciation guide) (Fantasy. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287797-0

Page Count: 512

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A creative and compelling read.

A NEON DARKNESS

From the Bright Sessions series , Vol. 2

Robert can manipulate others—but he doesn’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse.

Following The Infinite Noise (2019), this Bright Sessions book tells the origin story of Damien, ne Robert, one of the podcast’s antagonists. When the book opens, Robert is an 18-year-old high school dropout and White boy with no family but all the material resources he could ever need. He has the power to make people do what he wants, or more accurately, to want the same things he wants. After arriving in Los Angeles, he falls in with a slightly older group of Unusuals with various powers who take him under their wing. Shippen combines an exciting plot with diverse characters—such as Neon, who is Black and queer, and Indah, who is Indonesian, Muslim, and lesbian—who defy stereotypes. As the group tangles with a shady organization that has kidnapped their friend, they also realize that the affection they feel for Robert might not be real. Robert’s emotional arc is interesting and unusual—he wants to be a good person, but he is selfish, manipulative, and unwilling to change. He is sympathetic while also being pitiful and contemptible and far too uncool to be an antihero. This may be the best Bright Sessions content yet as well as an excellent starting point for those unfamiliar with this world.

A creative and compelling read. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-29754-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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