Into the woods like never before.

READ REVIEW

THE WAKING FOREST

An older teen’s uncanny dreams spill into reality—or perhaps it’s the other way around.

Rhea Ravenna, eldest of four white sisters, has been having visions and the same dream full of winding stairs and forbidden doors since she was young. Now 18 and with a decade of therapy for anxiety under her belt, she finally opens the door in her dream to find a dark presence behind it—and he is still there when she wakes up. Elsewhere in a vast woods—the same woods that Rhea sees in waking visions—a witch contentedly grants wishes to dreaming children, until a young man disguised as a black fox enters her realm and begins to tell her an enigmatic story of magic and rebellion and torn-out hearts. As Rhea’s home begins to unravel and her family to disappear, her world and the witch’s realm violently collide, and neither can hold back their screams. Dreams and stories—their power to escape reality and to restore it—are in the bones of this masterfully woven fantasy debut. And at its heart? The power of revolution in the face of coldly violent injustice. Wees has borrowed everything and nothing at all from fairy tales, stitching the most timeless and archetypal elements of dream, darkness, the forest, corruption, and imperfect valor into an intricate pattern crafted to twist, invert, and fall apart with exquisite precision.

Into the woods like never before. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-58116-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Packed to the brim with intrigue and the promise of a third installment.

LADY SMOKE

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 2

A rebel queen fans the sparks of revolution.

Picking up immediately after the events of Ash Princess (2018), Sebastian’s expansive sequel finds young Queen Theodosia—her title newly reclaimed—fleeing her country and throne. With her people still enslaved, Theo will need allies and an army to free them, and her aunt, the fierce and manipulative pirate Dragonsbane, insists that the only way to acquire either is if Theo marries—something no queen has ever done in Astrea’s history. Wracked by nightmares, guilt, and fear that she is losing herself (and more), Theo balks but, with few options open to her, grudgingly agrees to meet with suitors at a grand invitational hosted by the king of the opulent Sta’Crivero. Readers looking for further immersion and expansion of Theo’s world will not be disappointed here. The narrative suffers marginally from lengthy details picked up and soon put back down with no real service to plot or character development, but Theo’s first-person narration remains enthralling with emotional immediacy as she learns more and more about her world and the people (and cruelty) within it. Vengeance, political corruption, and mystery are the main drivers, and questions of trauma, empathy, and sacrifice hold the reigns as Theo grapples with emergent magic, inconvenient romances, and the crushing weight of her choices as a leader.

Packed to the brim with intrigue and the promise of a third installment. (maps) (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6710-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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