An ambitious series opener with promise.

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GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE

From the Give the Dark My Love series , Vol. 1

An unassuming country girl wages battle against a deadly plague.

Nedra Brysstain, an identical twin and the olive-skinned, black-haired daughter of a humble book peddler, leaves her quiet life in a rural village to attend a prestigious private school on scholarship. Under the tutelage of the enigmatic Master Ostrum, Nedra studies medicinal alchemy—a method of transferring patients’ pain through a crucible into another living creature (usually a rat). Though studious, Nedra falls for her classmate, handsome and affluent Greggori Astor. A plague known as the Wasting Death, thought to only affect the impoverished, is decimating the working poor and deepening an already precarious political rift. As the numbers of the dead increase, Nedra’s temperament shifts from empathetic to angry. When those close to her fall ill, Nedra must make a terrible choice, turning to necromancy in hopes of ending the plague and saving those she loves. Her transformation from a poor provincial girl to a fierce commander is transfixing; her choices may be fraught, but her risk-taking is thrilling. Although the central romance is hetero, secondary characters are queer. Revis’ (A World Without You, 2016, etc.) epic is a bit uneven, rambling at times but keeping pages flying at others. Pacing aside, expect this complex and atmospheric mix of fantasy, family secrets, and political intrigue to have strong crossover appeal. Characters are assumed white.

An ambitious series opener with promise. (Dark fantasy. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-595-14717-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Dark, demanding, and delicious.

TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND

From the Hazel Wood series , Vol. 2.5

Twelve pitch-black original fairy tales form the backbone to an acclaimed fantasy series.

Fans of the Hazel Wood series know of Althea Proserpine’s cult anthology, the original stories whose characters escaped into our world. Featuring, among others, Hansa the Traveler, Twice-Killed Katherine, and, of course, Alice-Three-Times (whose tale’s much-speculated-about ending falls oddly flat), the stories feel both familiar—the first was already included in its entirety in the series opener and several others, in abbreviated and altered form—and revelatory, unfolding in all their rich, lush, macabre, and grisly glory. Despite their vaguely preindustrial Western European setting, these are anything but traditional folktales. While every protagonist is female, the themes are not explicitly feminist; rather, the overwhelming tone is savage, angry, bitter, and cruel. Most of the leads do achieve a vicious and vengeful sort of triumph, but only one even approaches a conventional happy ending. Relationships (exclusively heterosexual) are only an excuse for male lust, domination, and manipulation. Parents (especially mothers) are mostly neglectful, smothering, abusive…or dead. Death, often horrific death, is a constant presence, even as a literal character in several stories. Although this collection could well be read on its own, the unrelenting grimness can be wearying; it may be best appreciated for the context and commentary it offers for the preceding volumes. Tierney’s bold illustrations, many featuring stark, contrasting tones of red, black, and white, accentuate the mood. There is some diversity in skin tone.

Dark, demanding, and delicious. (Fairy tales. 16-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-30272-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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