Strong messages about female empowerment permeate an inventive fantasy waiting for its conclusion.

SHAMRA DIVIDED

BOOK TWO OF THE SHAMRA CHRONICLES

In the second volume of the Shamra trilogy, Dara must learn who she is and where her people came from if she plans to confront the Chaos that threatens her people.

After defeating the Trocs in Curse of the Shamra, the first volume of The Shamra Chronicles, child hero Dara returns to assess the damage and prepare for her next battle against her greatest foe yet. But, despite the previous novel’s momentum, she must first learn about her people, the Shamra, their struggles and how they came to leave their homeland. Briana, who had appeared in Dara’s dreams, relates the lengthy history of the Shamra people as the two girls evade their enemies in a game of cat-and-mouse. Two hundred years ago, the Shamra were enslaved by the Kimra; Dara’s ancestor Drea led the rebellion to overthrow them. In a prescient move after the Pyrrhic victory, the priest, farmer and artisan clans fled the land in search of safer realms. But the fierce hunter clan, led by Drea, stayed, although a core group of hunters traveled with the priest-led refugees to ensure that their true history was not lost. The refugees suffered under the priests’ demands for female subservience—a pervasive issue in the saga—while Drea struggled with in-fighting and betrayal among her clan. As new generations mature, a pattern of misogyny and disloyalty develops in the Shamra people, with recurrent themes of the burden of leadership, the thrill of the hunt and the general unreliability of males. The repetition grows tiresome. Eventually, the Shamra discover that their immorality is not innate—it’s the working of Chaos, a force that infiltrates societies and destroys them from within. Dara’s ancestors defeated and temporarily contained Chaos, but now it threatens to break loose and corrupt the Sharma yet again. Being the middle book of the trilogy, this volume contains mostly backstory with no attempt at conclusion, which wouldn’t disappoint if its presentation weren’t so muddled. Fans of the first volume and readers looking for another realm to explore will enjoy the world-building, but they’ll have to wait until the series’ next volume to see if Dara truly is the savior she’s prophesized to be.

Strong messages about female empowerment permeate an inventive fantasy waiting for its conclusion.

Pub Date: May 10, 2010

ISBN: 978-1934267165

Page Count: 303

Publisher: Edge Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2012

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This fresh reworking of a Greek myth will resonate.

NEVER LOOK BACK

An otherworldly Latinx retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth set in the South Bronx.

Pheus visits his father in the Bronx every summer. The Afro-Dominican teen is known for his mesmerizing bachata music, love of history, and smooth way with the ladies. Eury, a young Puerto Rican woman and Hurricane Maria survivor, is staying with her cousin for the summer because of a recent, unspecified traumatic event. Her family doesn’t know that she’s been plagued since childhood by the demonlike Ato. Pheus and Eury bond over music and quickly fall in love. Attacked at a dance club by Sileno, its salacious and satyrlike owner, Eury falls into a coma and is taken to el Inframundo by Ato. Pheus, despite his atheism, follows the advice of his father and a local bruja to journey to find his love in the Underworld. Rivera skillfully captures the sounds and feels of the Bronx—its unique, diverse culture and the creeping gentrification of its neighborhoods. Through an amalgamation of Greek, Roman, and Taíno mythology and religious beliefs, gaslighting, the colonization of Puerto Rico, Afro-Latinidad identity, and female empowerment are woven into the narrative. While the pacing lags in the middle, secondary characters aren’t fully developed, and the couple’s relationship borders on instalove, the rush of a summertime romance feels realistic. Rivera’s complex world is well realized, and the dialogue rings true. All protagonists are Latinx.

This fresh reworking of a Greek myth will resonate. (Fabulism. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0373-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A dark and enthralling journey.

VESPERTINE

In a land threatened by violent spirits, a girl with a haunted past unleashes an ancient entity from a holy relic and strikes a deal for the power to save her home.

Ever since the Sorrow, the dead no longer pass on peacefully. Without the intervention of the Clerisy of the Gray Lady, they roam as destructive spirits. Artemisia of Naimes, gifted with the ability to see the spirits, never intends to leave her convent, where the walls protect her from possession and (Lady forbid) social interaction. Her plans crumble when a group of possessed soldiers attack her home. Reluctantly, Artemisia unseals a legendary relic, binding herself to a revenant, an undead being with immense power. Untrained in controlling spirits and desperate to protect her home, she bargains with the revenant to help her. Amid escalating danger and an unfolding mystery, Rogerson unveils a grim and intriguing world with a rich, plot-relevant history inspired by late-medieval France. In addition to the White protagonist, the narration describes several secondary characters with brown skin; the revenant is identified as “it,” while human characters in this world adhere to a gender binary. Artemisia experiences dynamic character growth as her understandings of trauma, history, and morality shift. Although she remains socially avoidant, she learns to value friendship. A satisfying but open-ended resolution demands for the story to continue.

A dark and enthralling journey. (glossary) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7711-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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