A fantasy novel about the clash of good and evil that fails to capture the imagination.

SPIRIT OF THE KING

In Hay’s debut YA fantasy series starter, a young warrior must choose between two opposing masters.

Eighteen-year-old Aria has grown up on a compound controlled by Keriggor, a powerful spirit-being who raids villages to capture humans, like her, who have spiritual connections. The other members of her family didn’t serve Keriggor’s needs, so they were murdered long ago by the magician’s Shadowers—demonic creatures with alligator faces. Aria, however, is Keriggor’s servant, bearing his dark mark on her forehead, and he’s been grooming her as his apprentice. Just as Aria is about to make a covenant binding herself to Keriggor forever, she experiences a vision of a different, kinder being: a man named Eli who tells her that he’s a king. She manages to escape Keriggor’s compound under the protection of Eli’s spirit. Now, for the first time that she can remember, she’s on her own in a wintry wilderness, and she only has Eli to guide her. After months of travel, she meets Daven and his friends—rangers in the service of Corinnia, a city under the king’s protection. She’s granted asylum there, but it’s clear from the outset that most of its residents don’t fully trust her. Indeed, they’re right to doubt her, for Keriggor’s influence on her still lingers, and she isn’t quite ready to fully commit herself to Eli. As she’s pulled back and forth between the two figures—who are influenced, at times, by others who serve them—Aria isn’t sure what she wants for herself. She’ll have to decide sooner rather than later, as in the inevitable battle to come, she’ll be forced to pick a side.

Over the course of this book, Hay’s prose is simple yet atmospheric in style, and it illuminates a world where the spiritual and physical exist side by side. At one point, for instance, Aria marvels at her first physical meeting with Eli: “After claiming to be a king, one would assume a spirit would manifest itself in a way that conveyed such a title, but there was nothing majestic in his physical appearance….To human eyes, his plain features and simple attire made him seem insignificant.” Aria is portrayed as feisty and willful—in fact, she’s a bit reminiscent of the Game of Thrones character with the similar name of Arya—and she brings a recognizably human perspective to this allegory of good and evil. It’s an allegory, however, that feels rather on-the-nose; disappointingly, the book’s moral complexity is no greater than that of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, so there’s no real sense of suspense surrounding Aria’s ultimate decision. Although the use of such a Manichaean framework doesn’t always make for an uninteresting plot, Hay fails to embellish hers with intriguing secondary characters or a truly immersive setting. As a result, there simply isn’t enough in these pages to hold readers’ interest, and Aria’s actions feel far less urgent than they should.

A fantasy novel about the clash of good and evil that fails to capture the imagination.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2021

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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