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

THE LIGHT AFTER THE ORANGE

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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 339

Publisher: Leirsinn Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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