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The author plays the long game in this engaging, layered, slow-burning fantasy series opener.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Survivors of an apocalypse discover a new world in this YA fantasy.

Alex Chegasa turns 18 years old today. She’s one of the few who lived through "the Orange,” a world-destroying event involving bombs. She lives in Danvers, Massachusetts, in an old school with her adoptive guardians, Danny and Calesta. While rummaging through abandoned homes for “trinkets,” Alex uses her power of detecting auras to sense a presence nearby. The entity is a dog, whom Alex names Jen, after her dead mother. Later, Alex, her guardians, and friends Roberto and Abi venture into the town of Salem. When they meet another band of survivors who are armed, tragedy strikes. Alex goes home and uses her Firestone, a gift from her mother, to burn down her past and start fresh. She decides to search for Jericho, a benevolent community. Meanwhile, in the distant Bearaig, a teen named Billey NicNevin lives with her “State-sponsored” family. She suffers an abiding loneliness that’s only lessened by her bond with trees. One day, she meets a “beautiful young woman” named Geilis, who comes and goes like a spirit. Neither Billey nor Alex fathoms that each one shares a hidden connection to the fae King Arthanius Chegasa, ruler of a place called Spirismus. Can Alex and her new companion, Iggy Dragonrider Thrumblar, escape Jericho to learn more? Hall begins a new series with ambitious worldbuilding and a tantalizing narrative structure. Alex's and Billey’s chapters alternate with first-person perspectives, keeping events intimate and on parallel tracks. Many genre tropes entwine, including apocalyptic survivors developing powers and a scandal happening in the fae courts. A deep exploration of character emotions ensures careful pacing, so casual fantasy fans may need patience as the separate arcs build toward each other. Alex’s romance with the equally powerful Iggy is intriguing, as “his feelings confused me, and I wanted to read him but knew he would know, would repel my energy.” Throughout, nature is lauded as a healing power, and the message that society should be more than just “a group of people living in the same place” is excellent.

The author plays the long game in this engaging, layered, slow-burning fantasy series opener.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022


Page Count: 339

Publisher: Leirsinn Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022


From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023


From the Blood and Tea series , Vol. 1

Crowd-pleasing fun laced with political fire: a winner.

Bestselling author Faizal returns to the universe of We Hunt the Flame (2019) with a stand-alone duology opener.

Orphaned Arthie, brown-skinned with mauve hair, has created a criminal empire out of sheer pluck despite being Ceylani in Ettenia, where laws favor white people. She pulled legendary pistol Calibore from a stone plinth (though the prophecy that doing so would make her the nation’s leader turned out to be a hoax). She’s also built Spindrift, a teahouse-cum-bloodhouse, where she gathers secrets from wealthy humans and vampires, amassing power and security. Now Arthie has her sights set on vengeance—and the Ram, Ettenia’s masked monarch. When she and Jin, her brother-by-choice (who’s cued East Asian), are drawn into a heist, they assemble a diverse crew of immigrants whose roles riff on genre archetypes. The lush prose pulses with feeling as revelations are dropped and the tension ratchets up, keeping the pages turning as the motley gang plans to infiltrate a vampire society, retrieve a stolen ledger, and double-cross one of the Ram’s guards (who might be planning to double-cross them). Their ultimate goal: taking down the colonizing Ettenians and the exploitative East Jeevant Company. It’s all very exciting right up to the action-packed finale, which promises more conspiracy and (hopefully) justice to come. This compelling read offers interesting commentary on our society while feeling entirely real within the context of its own worldbuilding.

Crowd-pleasing fun laced with political fire: a winner. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9780374389406

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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