Avoid this curry-house fantasy and try Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's The Conch Bearer (2003) or Roshani Chokshi's The...

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POISON'S KISS

A girl raised as an assassin is sent after a cute boy in Sundari, an Indian-inflected fantasyland.

Marinda is a visha kanya, a poison maiden. She was given to her handler, Gopal, as an infant and dosed with ever stronger snakebites until her kiss itself is toxic. She's now 17, and Gopal regularly sends her out to kiss boys—on the orders of the Raja, he tells her—and though Marinda's plagued with guilt, she has no choice. Her 7-year-old brother, Mani, has a painful disease, and Gopal has the only medicine that helps. When Gopal sends her after dreamboat Deven, whose eyes are “pools of melted chocolate,” Marinda's torn between her unwillingness to hurt Deven and her need to protect Mani. She soon discovers her entire life is a lie and is left reeling, providing a solid setup for the B-movie climax. Decent plotting and romantic tension are strained by confusing worldbuilding. Indian food and creatures inspired by Hindu mythology provide Sundarian flavor: Marinda eats chapati and samosas; she fears the Raksaka and the Nagaraja. The technology level seems arbitrary; characters wear hiking boots and live in modern row houses with showers, but the Raja's palace is lit by torches, and his soldiers are armed with swords and spears.

Avoid this curry-house fantasy and try Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's The Conch Bearer (2003) or Roshani Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen (2016) instead. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93782-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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Magic, tennis action, and family secrets are woven into an original coming-of-age tale.

LEGACY AND THE QUEEN

A 12-year-old girl living in a kingdom ruled by a mysterious queen dreams of attaining her sport’s highest prize.

Legacy Petrin lives and works in the financially strapped orphanage in the provinces run by her father and rises early every day to practice tennis with her old racket. After her best friend, Van, excitedly tells her about a scholarship competition for a spot at an esteemed academy and the opportunity to try out for the national championships, Legacy runs away to the city to compete. After winning, she learns there is still much she doesn’t know: The players are not just proficient in tennis, but also have magical skills that they use to their advantage. Legacy befriends Pippa, a knowledgeable girl from an elite tennis family, and acquires a builder, or coach, Javi. With Pippa and Javi at her side, Legacy makes her way through the competition, despite sabotage attempts, learning secrets about her own family along the way. Legacy is a strong character, and the secondary characters also have interesting backstories. The storyline is reminiscent of other dystopian stories, but centering tennis—with lively descriptions of matches that give a strong sense of the sport—is an unusual touch. Most characters are white, although Javi is brown-skinned, and some other characters of color are mentioned.

Magic, tennis action, and family secrets are woven into an original coming-of-age tale. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949520-03-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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