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An engaging installment of a complicated SF/fantasy series about a besieged writer.

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A teenage aspiring fantasy author teleported to the dystopic star system of her own fiction tries to protect her friends and elude pursuit by destructive forces, including a frighteningly corrupted superhero.

Portman continues the Coseema Saga, a YA epic fantasy/SF series that began with The Twin Stars (2021), featuring a teen writer haplessly lost in the far-out fictional universe of her imagination. Olive Joshi, 16, is trapped in an exotic star system she conceived in her notebook, an abandoned storytelling effort. It is nightmarish, an unstable arrangement of dying dual suns throwing solar flares on the planet Lyria, where “a brutal tyrant” named Burnash is the main villain—until the resurrection of his sister, Coseema. Originally a superpowered figure of virtue and strength (faintly resembling the self-doubting Olive), Coseema returned from her death/defeat a vengeful, sadistic, bat-winged fiend who covets limitless power that she may achieve by obtaining her creator’s notebook. After her narrow escape from Coseema, Olive has the notebook, but the superhero has the matching custom pen for writing in it. Now, as Coseema and Burnash viciously search Lyria for the Earth girl, Olive and her allies escape via spaceship to outer planets in the system, where an escape space-ark craft, the Wave-Rider, may remain as a last resort for Lyrians. The odyssey brings Olive and her friends (whom, don’t forget, she originally wrote, and for whom she feels tremendous, guilty responsibility) to new revelations and surprising and shocking reunions. Meanwhile, descriptions and narratives in Olive’s notebook continue to appear. But written by whom? The story’s ambiance is a blend of science and sword-and-sorcery magic, and often it is difficult to get a sense of the ground rules at work. But then again, one could argue this is exactly the dilemma that would be faced in a tyro effort from a novice author coming to grips with her inner Neil Gaiman, with half-formed characters and sketchy conceits taking on lives of their own. This sequel does suffer from middle-chapter syndrome, with interconnected ensemble characters whose entrances and exits and backstories are hard to trace without a chart. But by the ending, readers should be sufficiently hooked to follow the vivid, ominous threads into the next volume.

An engaging installment of a complicated SF/fantasy series about a besieged writer.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-9959204-6-0

Page Count: 342


Review Posted Online: June 3, 2022

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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

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Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy.

The underestimated sister of a soon-to-be queen has her own tale to tell in this companion novel to Levenseller’s The Shadows Between Us (2020).

Nineteen-year-old Chrysantha and her younger sister, Alessandra, who’s the fiancee of the Shadow King, don’t have the best relationship. Chrysantha has always been jealous of how easily Alessandra achieves success, while Alessandra thinks Chrysantha is a fool. For her part, Chrysantha uses this reputation as a facade and a means to an end while she patiently awaits the demise of her lewd—and wealthy—husband, the Duke of Pholios. With Chrysantha’s assistance, the 64-year-old duke dies, allowing his widow to drop the charade and focus on being independent and spending money according to her own whims and desires. That is, until distractingly handsome 18-year-old Eryx Demos arrives, claiming to be her late husband’s heir who’s ready to take control of the estate. Combining her objectives of outshining Alessandra at her royal wedding with enjoying some captivating arm candy and gaining Eryx’s trust in order to stab him in the back, Chrysantha takes up the job of molding Eryx into a proper duke. Chrysantha’s and Eryx’s wickedly charming personalities clash in the most pleasing and seductive ways, so that even though the plot feels repetitive at times, there’s still much to delight in. Chrysantha’s skin is “dark beige”; Eryx is “tanned” and has “tawny-brown hair.”

Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy. (Fantasy romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 9, 2024


Page Count: 336

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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