Pleasant enough, but Silvie’s constant protestations against her leadership and heroism won’t get much argument.

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THE FOREST QUEEN

A runaway noblewoman takes up robbery, aided by a band of merry rogues, in this gender-flipped Robin Hood retelling.

Lady Silviana flees to the forest, mostly to escape her brutal brother, John, and his incestuous desires. Along with a servant, a boy named Bird who is her lifelong friend and love interest, she offers refuge to John’s victims, starting with the raped and pregnant Little Jane. To her astonishment, Silvie soon finds these outlaws are looking to her to command an uprising against feudal injustice. Pseudo-British, vaguely medieval Esting is an intriguing world—nobles are either dark-complexioned or extremely pale, and they rule over a population that is somewhere in the middle in terms of coloring; most occupations are open to men and women alike; and birth control, abortion, and bisexuality are openly accepted—yet patriarchal authority essentially remains unchallenged. Themes of freedom and feminism are heavily emphasized, while traditional swashbuckling is downplayed in favor of Silvie’s romantic angst and dawning social consciousness. Colorful side characters are vividly drawn, if occasionally wincingly exoticized (especially the princess Ghazia), and are frankly more compelling than diffident Silvie or blandly perfect Bird. Nonetheless, the inspiring ethos, brisk pace, and genuinely thrilling climax all hold attention even if the disappointing epilogue suggests that systemic oppression can be corrected by punishing one egregious villain.

Pleasant enough, but Silvie’s constant protestations against her leadership and heroism won’t get much argument. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-88819-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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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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