For more discerning fans of the genre and those who enjoyed the previous title.

SPARK

From the Elemental series , Vol. 2

Enjoyable and as illogical as is dictated by paranormal-romance conventions, round two of The Elemental Series is set apart by its focus on the viewpoint of the guy.

Following Becca and Chris’ showdown with the Guide sent to kill the Merrick brothers in the first of the series, Storm (2012), Gabriel Merrick, one of the twins, here explores his connection to fire, which is reflected in his quickness to act and to anger. Quite athletic, Gabriel has opted to let his twin Nick cover for him in math, a strategy that works until a new and more demanding teacher shows up. Layne is a quiet girl who tries to go unnoticed, but by observing Gabriel’s academic struggles, she connects with him, even as her father wants her to avoid boys completely; her deaf younger brother, Simon, is almost her only ally. Gradually, both Layne and Gabriel share the spotlight in this third-person tale. Clearly, fire is the unifying theme, and blazes appear with horrifying regularity as events reveal Gabriel’s need to control his power. A lively romance blossoms, despite the usual absurd misunderstandings and defenses of the protagonists. The plot is fairly predictable, but the characters have slightly more depth and are more interesting than many in the genre, as it takes more than special powers to face their internal challenges.

For more discerning fans of the genre and those who enjoyed the previous title. (Paranormal romance. 11-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7582-7282-9

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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