Filled with fervor but more told than shown and diluted by repetition.

INKMISTRESS

A demigod pines for romance but finds herself responsible for deaths and chaos.

Asra lives alone on a mountain, providing villagers with magic-infused herbal remedies. If she mingles with mortals, they’ll learn she’s a bloodscribe: words written with her blood can change the past or future. Desperate to keep her (secret) mortal lover, Ina, from marrying a boy, Asra uses her bloodscribe power, accidentally (and inevitably) triggering deadly events. Whether she necessarily caused as many deaths as she thinks, she’s consumed by guilt: if she finds Ina, who’s become a vengeful dragon and departed, Asra can rewrite the past. Romantic love is Asra’s primary focus—after Ina, a boy named Hal, also a demigod. Questions of faith also run through the book, both in the form of Asra’s curiosity over which god is her parent and a challenge to the king, which threatens the land’s life-support. Given that Asra’s blood causes magic on contact, readers may wonder whether she menstruates (gods do have children). Dramatic chapter-ending cliffhangers invigorate momentum; ongoing, unnecessary reiteration slows it. Bisexuality in both protagonist and villain is refreshing, though the concluding text explicitly undermines Asra and Ina’s relationship in hindsight. Asra and Ina are white; Hal is dark brown. For richer treatment of bisexuality, passion, and blood power, look to Sarah Fine’s The True Queen (2018).

Filled with fervor but more told than shown and diluted by repetition. (Romance/fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243328-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit.

THESE HOLLOW VOWS

Brie risks the deadly land of the Fae to save her sister.

Brie doesn’t trust many people other than Jas, her eternally hopeful sister, and Sebastian, mage apprentice and Brie’s secret love (as if she had time for romance). Brie struggles to meet the payments for the magical contracts binding their lives to Madame Vivias, supplementing her cleaning work by stealing from the rich. While the land of Faerie tempts other girls with word of a castle, a lavish ball, and a fae prince seeking a wife, Brie mistrusts the creatures who capitalize on humanity’s greed. When Jas’ contract is sold to the fae, Brie braves the golden Seelie queen’s court, meets the noble Prince Ronan, and travels on to the Unseelie king’s shadow court. In the process she discovers love, historical secrets, atrocities, and her own hidden strength. While many elements regarding the fae and a love triangle will feel familiar to fans of the genre, and the magic could have been more fleshed out, discussions of power, inequity, trust, and hope expand the worldbuilding in refreshing ways. Similarly, consideration of the balance between truth and secrets, lies and stories, is intriguing as it’s applied to characters, relationships, and historical lore. Despite certain predictable reveals, the plot itself, which starts off slowly, picks up and is pleasantly convoluted with multiple satisfying surprises. Major human characters read as White.

An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-38657-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.

10 BLIND DATES

Is an exuberant extended family the cure for a breakup? Sophie is about to find out.

When Sophie unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, she isn’t thrilled about spending the holidays at her grandparents’ house instead of with him. And when her grandmother forms a plan to distract Sophie from her broken heart—10 blind dates, each set up by different family members—she’s even less thrilled. Everyone gets involved with the matchmaking, even forming a betting pool on the success of each date. But will Sophie really find someone to fill the space left by her ex? Will her ex get wind of Sophie’s dating spree via social media and want them to get back together? Is that what she even wants anymore? This is a fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family. The pace is quick and light, though the characters are fairly shallow and occasionally feel interchangeable, especially with so many names involved. A Christmas tale, the plot is a fast-paced series of dinners, parties, and games, relayed in both narrative form and via texts, though the humor occasionally feels stiff and overwrought. The ending is satisfying, though largely unsurprising. Most characters default to white as members of Sophie’s Italian American extended family, although one of her cousins has a Filipina mother. One uncle is gay.

An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02749-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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