Much food for thought and discussion; but above all, a gripping read.

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FREED BY FLAME AND STORM

A former slave must choose between vengeance, mercy, and justice in the conclusion of the epic fantasy duology that began with Bound by Blood and Sand (2016).

After much struggle and sacrifice, Jae mastered her elemental magic and ended the drought ravaging her desert realm. Now she and Elan, forswearing his once-exalted status, seek to destroy the Curse enslaving the Closest caste. But their newfound allies demand nothing less than overthrowing the rule of the Highest—including Elan’s beloved sister Erra. Allen’s return to this stark fantasy world tackles tough issues: power and privilege, order and freedom, trust and loyalty, the use and abuse of history. The clean, spare prose does not shy away from violence (including rape) intrinsic to the rigid social hierarchy, but it also portrays a culture without discrimination based on race (every character is variously “brown”), gender, or sexual orientation. Jae’s character—bitter, grieving, weary, striving for compassion, but ferociously committed to freedom—dominates the narrative. Elan remains generous, supportive, and sensitive, especially to Jae’s conflicted response to his romantic hopes. Honest and conscientious Erra may be the chief antagonist but is in no way a villain. Message never overwhelms story; as rising tensions, stakes, and casualties all hurtle toward a seemingly inevitable bloody catastrophe, only astonishing (and reciprocal) demonstrations of contrition and compromise permit a fragile but hopeful reconciliation to emerge.

Much food for thought and discussion; but above all, a gripping read. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93218-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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