It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy.

THE TEMPLE OF DOUBT

From the Temple of Doubt series , Vol. 1

A fantasy series opener pits adolescent angst against an all-powerful religion.

Living in Port Sapphire, on the island of New Meridian in the world of Kuldor, almost-16-year-old Hadara chafes under the tenets of a religion headed by the god Nihil that teaches that magic is superior to anything in nature. Since Hadara and her mother continue the passed-down-in-the-female-line family business of concocting healing potions from plants, the two are regarded with suspicion even as their services are sought out by townspeople. When an object falls from the sky into the marsh, Azwans (mages of Nihil) and their oversized Feroxi guards arrive to investigate, complicating things for Hadara and her family, not least because Hadara begins to have feelings for one of the guards. Although Hadara is a delightfully pert narrator, the story’s foremost tension—her subversive doubt of Nihil’s tenets—fails to reach its full potential because the religious concepts are not convincingly clear enough to weave themselves inextricably into the story. Levy shines brightest in her potent descriptions of settings and her imaginative scenes. Continuity, however, is a recurring problem. Among other lapses, the first two chapters seem to be two separate beginnings.

It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63220-427-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

I AM NOT STARFIRE

Sixteen-year-old Mandy considers herself the anti-Starfire: Unlike her scantily clad superhero mother, she doesn’t have superpowers, can’t fly, and doesn’t even own a bathing suit.

Mandy dyes her hair and dresses in all black to further call out how different they are. Mandy’s best friend, Lincoln, whose parents were born in Vietnam, insightfully summarizes this rift as being down to an intergenerational divide that occurs whether parents and children come from different countries or different planets. Mandy tries to figure out what kind of future she wants for herself as she struggles with teenage insecurities and bullying, her relationship with her mom, and her budding friendship (or is it something more?) with her new class project partner, Claire. Yoshitani’s vibrant and colorful stylized illustrations beautifully meld the various iterations of Starfire and the Titans with the live-action versions of those characters. Together with Tamaki’s punchy writing, this coming-of-age story of identity, family, friendship, and saving the world is skillfully brought to life in a quick but nuanced read. These layers are most strongly displayed as the story draws parallels between cultural differences between the generations as evidenced in how the characters address bullying, body positivity, fatphobia, fetishization and sexualization, and feminism. This title addresses many important concepts briefly, but well, with great pacing, bold art, and concise and snappy dialogue. The cast is broadly diverse in both primary and secondary characters.

Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. (Graphic fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-126-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DC Comics

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

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Without sparks to sustain it, the story fizzles.

WAKING IN TIME

She’s going back in time; he’s going forward; they meet in 1961.

Still raw from her grandmother’s death, 18-year-old Abbi takes comfort in the fact that she is starting her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It’s the perfect place, one where the white narrator can make a fresh start and stay close to the memory of Grandma, who once walked the very same halls. But in her wildest dreams, Abbi never could have imagined just how close the two would be. For reasons she is desperate to understand, Abbi finds herself traveling backward through time, with each new stop providing clues to a mysterious family secret. To add to the intrigue, Abbi discovers she’s not the only time traveler. Will, a handsome white farm boy from 1927, is on his own journey forward through time, and Abbi gradually realizes that Will is not only linked to her family’s past, but also holds the key to her heart—past, present, and future. Though this may provide a quick fix for fans of time-travel romance, the novel fails to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. While Abbi is a likable-enough protagonist, the story meanders, and the dialogue often feels stilted. However, the greatest disappointment is that a potentially delicious romance between Abbi and Will fails to gain any traction for the first two-thirds of the novel.

Without sparks to sustain it, the story fizzles. (Science fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63079-070-7

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Switch/Capstone

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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