On balance, it’s an entertaining romp in a richly imaginative setting.

THE INVENTOR'S SECRET

From the Inventor's Secret series , Vol. 1

Paranormal-romance queen Cremer (the Nightshade series) tries her hand at writing steampunk with an alternative-history twist.

The year is 1816. The British have won the Revolutionary War, enslaved the Americans, and turned Boston into a prison and New York City into a socially stratified power center. Giant, robotic Imperial Labor Gatherers and man-eating rats terrorize the population. A colony of teenage resistance fighters are hiding in a remote maze of caves in the New York Wilderness. Tomboy heroine Charlotte rescues a mysteriously invincible but amnesiac boy, nicknamed Grave, and brings him back to the Catacombs. The plot thickens when fellow rebel, tough guy Jack, turns out to be the disgraced son of an elite admiral who holds a powerful position in Empire society. Piloting the made-for-movies Dragonfly, a fanciful insectlike aircraft tricked out in brass and leather, Jack flies Charlotte and her companions to the multilayered Floating City. There, disguised as aristocrats and servants from the islands, the rebels attempt to infiltrate the establishment and solve the mystery of Grave. Charlotte’s steamy romantic intrigues with Jack and his Machiavellian brother dominate much of the action, leaving some plot details frustratingly opaque, including the titular secret itself. The cliffhanger at the conclusion of the novel clearly anticipates a sequel.

On balance, it’s an entertaining romp in a richly imaginative setting. (Steampunk. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-15962-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A resounding success.

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CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.

RED QUEEN

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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