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CRIMSON REIGN

From the Blood Heir series , Vol. 3

Awash in bloodshed, this trilogy closer is most interesting for the questions it poses.

Allies and enemies fight for country and love.

In this follow-up to Red Tigress (2021), Ana and company have gone on separate quests. As Ana makes her way to Cyrilia to confront her aunt, the Empress Morganya, Linn is off to the Kemeiran Empire to recruit forces for their cause. Ramson remains in Bregon to discover what he can about regaining the Affinite powers stolen by the siphons. While the villain comes off as somewhat two-dimensional—in it for the power and little else—the evil aunt makes some interesting comments about leadership and winning wars. The ultimate goal is to rid the world of the current corrupt monarchy, and the questions Ana and the others must ask themselves are: What will take its place? What will be best for the people? And who will be the one to lead them? It is the journey to answer these questions rather than the frequent bloody battles that is compelling. Though Ana is the main heroine, the storytelling finds its stride in delving into the ensemble cast, exploring their motivations and watching them come to their personal and sometimes painful resolutions. Cultural and physical markers code the Kemeirans as an East Asian fantasy equivalent, while the Northern Cyrilians read as Russian inspired, and Southern Cyrilians have light-brown skin.

Awash in bloodshed, this trilogy closer is most interesting for the questions it poses. (map, glossary) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-525-70787-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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