A slow, hazy beginning eventually sharpens before charging into an electric, enchanting end.

A SONG BELOW WATER

From the Song Below Water series , Vol. 1

Two young women literally and figuratively embody #BlackGirlMagic.

Sixteen and with deep brown skin, Tavia is a siren who uses American Sign Language to push against the mesmerizing call that burns like a fire in her throat and could mean being silenced forever if it is released. Plagued with mysterious body ailments and no knowledge of her biological heritage to inform a diagnosis, light-brown–skinned 16-year-old Effie, Tavia’s sister-by-choice, is haunted by survivor’s guilt after a traumatic childhood incident. Portland, Oregon, provides a memorable setting for Morrow’s solid and intentional unpacking of myths around black people and their aversion to water activities through their stories. Chapters alternating first-person narration between the two protagonists set up Tavia to often be the voice of social justice inquiry, especially regarding prejudice against sirens, who are always black women. Effie’s storyline focuses on a different type of identity exploration as she untangles her complicated family history. Lengthy exposition with confusing plot turns and a reveal of ethnically diverse magical beings and their powers slows the first part of the book. The action picks up toward the middle, rising to create an exciting new contemporary fantasy. In this parallel world, black female empowerment is standing up for yourself and others while simultaneously navigating love, physical and emotional violence, and the responsibility of immense supernatural power.

A slow, hazy beginning eventually sharpens before charging into an electric, enchanting end. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31532-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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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