Fast-paced and reasonably respectful, this Middle Eastern–flavored fantasy will appeal to a growing readership clamoring for...

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THE FIRE WISH

From the Jinni Wars series , Vol. 1

The Thousand and One Nights meets The Prince and the Pauper.

In what can only be termed quasi-historical fantasy (the geography checks out, the mythology not so much), two girls—one headed to Baghdad to marry the caliph’s son, the other a jinni who spies on humans as part of an interspecies war—switch places. They look exactly alike, and both of them are closer to the secrets behind the war, which began in their infancies, than they know. Alternating chapters in occasionally indistinguishable (but generally well-written, albeit with occasional flashes of purple prose) first-person voices detail their worlds (the historical world aboveground and the jinni’s anachronistically modern-feeling underground Cavern); their parallel romances (the swap was good for kissing, at least); and the escalating war. Someone has been inciting trouble for a long time, and Najwa and Zayele’s accidental switch brings it all to a head. Yes, it’s first in a trilogy, but its arc is satisfying enough on its own.

Fast-paced and reasonably respectful, this Middle Eastern–flavored fantasy will appeal to a growing readership clamoring for exactly this kind of girl-powered intrigue, magic and romance. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-36976-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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