More terrific combat scenes, but a bit too heavy on character development to fly at speed.

CYTONIC

From the Skyward series , Vol. 3

The third episode in the Skyward series sees red-hot space pilot Spensa Nightshade coming into her full powers as she battles both pirates and space monsters in a strange interdimensional nowhere.

Leaving her ongoing feud with evil galactic overlords on temporary hold back in the somewhere, Spensa passes through a portal to a realm where time and memories tend to slip away, bits of landscape randomly snipped from reality float like islands around a distant sunburst—and teeming hordes of disembodied, malevolent entities called delvers are relentlessly hunting her down. Fun as all the space-opera elements are, though, they continue a trend from the preceding volume in deadening the efforts of Spensa and sidekicks old and new to establish personal identities or backstories, wrestle with inner demons, or, in the case of the AI M-Bot, practice insults and deal with newly discovered emotions. A few wild aerial dogfights and larger battles later, however, Spensa has come into her cytonic superpowers, found out some crucial things about the delvers, and made her way back to the somewhere. Now for those overlords….McSweeney contributes a map, lovingly detailed sets of spaceship plans, and galleries of the multispecies cast members. Wild diversity of intergalactic body types notwithstanding, human members seem uniformly White.

More terrific combat scenes, but a bit too heavy on character development to fly at speed. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-55585-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Sweet, if unremarkable.

BRIARHEART

A gentle “Sleeping Beauty”–inspired tale of teens training to defend a baby princess.

Fifteen-year-old Miri, beloved stepdaughter of the king, is freshly in love—with her baby sister. As the novel opens, Aurora’s christening looms, and any Disney fan will know what’s coming. However, this is Miri’s story, and pages of first-person description and exposition come before those events. Tirendell, like all kingdoms, has Light and Dark Fae. Dark Fae feed off human misery and sadness, but their desire to cause harm for self-benefit is tempered by the Rules. The Rules state that they can only act against humans under certain conditions, one being that those who have crossed them, for example, by failing to invite them to a royal christening, are fair game. Miri steps up instinctively at the moment of crisis and both deflects the curse and destroys the Dark Fae, which leads to the bulk of the novel: an extended and detailed day-to-day journey with Miri and her five largely indistinguishable new friends as they train in combat and magic to protect Aurora from future threats. With limited action and a minimal plot, this story lacks wide appeal but is notable for the portrait of deep familial love and respect, while the brief, episodic adventures (including talking animals) offer small pleasures. All characters are implied to be White.

Sweet, if unremarkable. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5745-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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