An intriguing start with a brave heroine; too bad readers must await the sequel for some real action.

THE BOOK OF IVY

From the Book of Ivy series , Vol. 1

In this YA novel set in a post-apocalyptic future, a teenage girl is charged by her family with killing the president’s son—who is also her new husband.

Two generations ago, nuclear war almost destroyed the world. A small town of less than 10,000 survivors was founded by narrator Ivy Westfall’s grandfather, but President Lattimer’s father won the struggle for control. He now rules autocratically rather than heading up the democracy Westfall favored. Criminals are exiled and left to die. To soothe old wounds, the town instituted a tradition: Sons of the winning side marry the daughters of the losers, and vice versa. Now Ivy, 16, must marry Bishop Lattimer—son of the president, who had Ivy’s mother killed. Nervous as any young girl might be about marrying a stranger, Ivy has an additional burden: She has promised her family that she will kill her new husband so as to aid the rebellion. Ivy, outspoken and reckless, soon realizes that Bishop is gentle, thoughtful and guilty of nothing, which presents her with a terrible dilemma: “If I kill Bishop, my family will be in power, but Bishop will be dead and what will I be? A murderer.” When Ivy is given an ultimatum to poison Bishop, she faces a terrible decision. In her debut novel, Engel employs the first-person, present-tense style that’s almost de rigueur in this genre. Together with the emotionally fraught situation—simply having to share a house with a man is unsettling for Ivy—the book has immediacy, and there’s justification for plenty of teenage angst. Ivy is forced to question her family’s motivations as Bishop keeps surprising her, and she surprises herself with her growing feelings for him. The worldbuilding is mostly well-thought-out, with some complicated issues: Westfall lacks resources to make jewelry but can make electronic security systems? The pace becomes slow, too, and it seems as if the real drama is still to come in a planned sequel, which may frustrate some readers.

An intriguing start with a brave heroine; too bad readers must await the sequel for some real action.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1622664658

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2014

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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This fresh reworking of a Greek myth will resonate.

NEVER LOOK BACK

An otherworldly Latinx retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth set in the South Bronx.

Pheus visits his father in the Bronx every summer. The Afro-Dominican teen is known for his mesmerizing bachata music, love of history, and smooth way with the ladies. Eury, a young Puerto Rican woman and Hurricane Maria survivor, is staying with her cousin for the summer because of a recent, unspecified traumatic event. Her family doesn’t know that she’s been plagued since childhood by the demonlike Ato. Pheus and Eury bond over music and quickly fall in love. Attacked at a dance club by Sileno, its salacious and satyrlike owner, Eury falls into a coma and is taken to el Inframundo by Ato. Pheus, despite his atheism, follows the advice of his father and a local bruja to journey to find his love in the Underworld. Rivera skillfully captures the sounds and feels of the Bronx—its unique, diverse culture and the creeping gentrification of its neighborhoods. Through an amalgamation of Greek, Roman, and Taíno mythology and religious beliefs, gaslighting, the colonization of Puerto Rico, Afro-Latinidad identity, and female empowerment are woven into the narrative. While the pacing lags in the middle, secondary characters aren’t fully developed, and the couple’s relationship borders on instalove, the rush of a summertime romance feels realistic. Rivera’s complex world is well realized, and the dialogue rings true. All protagonists are Latinx.

This fresh reworking of a Greek myth will resonate. (Fabulism. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0373-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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