A promising beginning, but readers will have to wait for the next volume of the Shamra Chronicles to see if that promise is...

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CURSE OF THE SHAMRA

THE SHAMRA CHRONICLES

Dara has always been an outsider among the peaceable Shamra, but when her people are enslaved by the Trocs and their predatory Shriek birds, only she can lead the Resistance.

Hoffman (Hungry Eyes, 1997, etc.) ventures into young-adult territory in the first of a trilogy based in a world inhabited by human/animal hybrids with very human problems. The blue-eyed, brown-skinned Shamra have marsupial-like pouches, froglike tongues and a happy, communal culture guided by a priesthood that fosters sharing, a casteless social structure, celebration and the complete subservience of adult females to their husbands. Orphaned Dara is a brown-eyed tomboy gifted with prophetic visions. On her adoptive sister Pilla’s wedding day, their isolated domain is invaded by the Trocs, who resemble parasitic worms and quickly enslave the defenseless Shamra. Dara and a few others flee to the swamps, where Dara is anointed the prophesied One who will lead them to freedom—even though she is a female. When Pilla and her betrothed Wren mysteriously disappear, Dara realizes that she must follow her visions to seek help in the unknown lands beyond the surrounding desert. Accompanied only by her second-in-command, Heber, and her Bauble, Tyler (all Shamra have caterpillarlike companions that they carry in their pouches, but only a few Shamra realize that they can talk to them), Dara sets out to find the birdlike allies she has seen in her dreams attacking the Trocs’ subservient Shrieks. Meanwhile, Wren’s brother Glondel has discovered that the Trocs have much more in common with maggots than one might imagine. And treachery always lurks in the wings. Hoffman has constructed a world that is just alien enough to intrigue, yet familiar enough to entice. He has a didactic agenda, encouraging female agency and questioning religious dogma. However, as a novel, the story relies too often on authorial narration rather than showing the characters’ interactions, and the climactic battle is surprisingly flat, although the action may amp up in the later volumes.

A promising beginning, but readers will have to wait for the next volume of the Shamra Chronicles to see if that promise is fulfilled.

Pub Date: May 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1887368681

Page Count: 325

Publisher: Edge Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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