This winsome debut novel goes down like a vegan, gluten-free cupcake: sweet and good for you but entirely lacking in...

HEART OF THORNS

From the Heart of Thorns series , Vol. 1

A high-fantasy adventure with a spiritedly feminist point of view.

Seventeen-year-old Mia Rose unsuccessfully plots an escape from her arranged royal wedding, craving the freedom to hunt down her mother’s murderer (Wynna was killed by a hateful Gwyrach, a half-god, half-human female demon who “could manipulate flesh, bone, breath, and blood”). Instead she ends up on the run with her betrothed, the now lethally injured Prince Quin. The desperate scrabble across dangerous terrain is well-written, but while Barton’s feminist perspective is refreshing, it makes for some awkward romantic exchanges. In one non-ironic scene, Mia’s love interest observes, “You’re beautiful when you lie,” and recovers with, “Not to diminish you or suggest that beauty is an indicator of your worth.” A male character’s bisexuality is handled well, however. The elaborate worldbuilding evinces a traditional patriarchal feudalism; women are feared for their potential magic, and a utopian village is inhabited only by women, children, and men determined to be safe. Most tellingly, the Gwyrach can “unblood” a man—deflate an engorged phallus—which comes in handy in a would-be rape scene. This is a diverting tale, but the sisterhood is distracting rather than uplifting, and the denouement is easily guessed. Mia and Quin are white.

This winsome debut novel goes down like a vegan, gluten-free cupcake: sweet and good for you but entirely lacking in satisfying decadence. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-244768-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A purple page turner.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Clockwork Angel (2010) pits gorgeous, attractively broken teens against a menacing evil.

There's betrayal, mayhem and clockwork monstrosities, and the Shadowhunters have only two weeks to discover—oh, who are we kidding? The plot is only surprisingly tasty icing on this cupcake of a melodramatic love triangle. Our heroes are Tessa, who may or may not be a warlock, and the beautiful Shadowhunter warrior boys who are moths to her forbidden flame. It's not always clear why Tessa prefers Will to his beloved (and only) friend Jem, the dying, silver-eyed, biracial sweetheart with the face of an angel. Jem, after all, is gentle and kind, her dearest confidante; Will is unpleasant to everyone around him. But poor, wretched Will—who "would have been pretty if he had not been so tall and so muscular"—has a deep, dark, thoroughly emo secret. His trauma puts all previous romantic difficulties to shame, from the Capulet/Montague feud all the way to Edward Cullen's desire to chomp on Bella Swan. Somehow there's room for an interesting steampunk mystery amid all this angst. The supporting characters (unusually well-developed for a love-triangle romance) include multiple compelling young women who show strength in myriad ways. So what if there are anachronisms, character inconsistencies and weird tonal slips? There's too much overwrought fun to care.

A purple page turner. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7588-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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Even those who loved the first book might find too little logic in this conclusion

THE PACK

A group of shape-shifting runaways from the circus, on the run from genocidal hunters, tries to find a home.

Flo, her boyfriend, Jett, and the other shifters just want to find a strong pack to join. The teenagers (all either white or with no identified race) can all shift into an animal form: bears or tigers, parrots or rats, elephants or horses. The frightened escapees, who’ve lost many of their loved ones to hunters, have been seeking some safe place in the woods. The members of this huge cast (with too many names and animal forms to keep track of) have a wide array of agendas. Should they join the wild pack? The wolf pack? Should they even stay together? After brief dramas, many of these newly introduced characters vanish, never to be heard from again. Finally, Flo and the shifters are captured by hunters, who are in league with the lion who used to run their circus, who’d been betraying them for years and who now seeks to strike a bargain. Further dramatic revelations and betrayals await, of course. There’s no attempt to summarize the events of The Wanderers (2015), and with so many characters, side quests, and double crosses, it’s often difficult to keep track.

Even those who loved the first book might find too little logic in this conclusion . (Fantasy. 13-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-1218-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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