Grim indeed, without respite, often without rhyme or reason.

GRIM

As a human family tussles against bitter seraphim in the underworld, misery runs constant—never waning, never tempered.

Waggener’s debut opens with a cryptic prologue by mother-of-three Erika. A car accident sends Erika to the underworld, accompanied by Jeremiah, an adult rogue (neither seraph nor human). Jeremiah refuses to explain anything, including whether Erika’s dead. He mutters arcane things and snaps when Erika doesn’t understand. That this motif, of a controlling male who keeps a woman in the dark, is common doesn't make it any less infuriating; that Erika falls for Jeremiah is predictable as well. What makes no sense is Erika’s demand that her children join her—as if people could travel to Limbo alive and unharmed. She visits them in dreams, unconcerned that those dream-visits are nightmares to them. Erika’s 17-year-old and 18-year-old sometimes narrate as the unrelentingly dismal plot moves through drowning, stabbings, metaphorical rape and breathless chases. The youngest child dies more than once. Generations-long sourness infuses both Erika’s family (alcoholism, abuse) and the seraphim (marital infidelity and a bastard child; black pages with white font tell Jeremiah’s parents’ thread). Limbo is a city slum. Moreover, although young-adult literature has no cemented definition, casting two of four protagonists as adults—Erika’s in her 30s—firmly removes this particular text from teen concerns.

Grim indeed, without respite, often without rhyme or reason. (Horror. 16 & up)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-38480-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A very full mixed bag.

KINGSBANE

From the Empirium Trilogy series , Vol. 2

In the sequel to Furyborn (2018), Rielle and Eliana struggle across time with their powers and prophesied destinies.

Giving readers only brief recaps, this book throws them right into complicated storylines in this large, lovingly detailed fantasy world filled with multiple countries, two different time periods, and hostile angels. Newly ordained Rielle contends with villainous Corien’s interest in her, the weakening gate that holds the angels at bay, and distrust from those who don’t believe her to be the Sun Queen. A thousand years in the future, Eliana chafes under her unwanted destiny and finds her fear of losing herself to her powers (like the Blood Queen) warring with her need to save those close to her. The rigid alternation between time-separated storylines initially feels overstuffed, undermining tension, but once more characters get point-of-view chapters and parallels start paying off, the pace picks up. The multiethnic cast (human versus angelic is the only divide with weight) includes characters of many sexual orientations, and their romantic storylines include love triangles, casual dalliances, steady couples, and couples willing to invite in a third. While many of the physically intimate scenes are loving, some are rougher, including ones that cross lines of clear consent and introduce a level of violence that many young readers will not be ready for. The ending brings heartbreaking twists to prime readers for the trilogy’s conclusion.

A very full mixed bag. (map, list of elements) (Fantasy. 17-adult)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5665-4

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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