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

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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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences.

REALM BREAKER

When the realm is in danger, only a small band of misfits can save Allward.

An in medias res prologue, told from the point of view of the lone squire accompanying the 12 Companions of the Realm, tosses readers into the thick of a quest. Half the Companions are human heroes and half are immortal Elders; they seek to stop a rogue thief and his wizard accomplice from using a magical Spindle to tear a passage between worlds for nefarious ends. A disastrous battle sends squire Andry fleeing with Cortael’s sword so villain Taristan can’t get his hands on it. Grieving Elder Dom requires both a person of Corblood (a descendant of human travelers from another realm) and the Spindleblade Andry protects to stop Taristan from bringing ruin to the realm. Dom seeks Cortael’s secret daughter, Corayne, a bright but sheltered teenager with a pirate mother. At times the narrative tension is undermined by flashbacks that readers already know the conclusions to and by occasional repetition caused by the multiple point-of-view jumps, but there’s a wide variety of action scenes, daring escapes, and betrayals. Many tropes and character types are familiar, but exquisite descriptions and clashing motivations result in a nuanced, sprawling realm with a sense of complicated history. This world is highly diverse in terms of both skin tone and in the refreshing range of roles female characters inhabit.

An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287262-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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