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THE HITHERTO SECRET EXPERIMENTS OF MARIE CURIE

Ambitious and offbeat but suffering from repetitiveness.

A fictional collection of fantastical imaginings of Marie Curie’s teen years.

After an opening grounds readers in the basics of the life of Marya Salomea Skłodowska, better known as Marie Curie, as well as the important people and places of her youth, 16 authors imagine her youth, with mixed-genre twists. The more grounded stories imagine Marya using her scientific know-how to solve mysteries and save lives; these intermingle with tales of her hunting monsters and raising the dead. The result is jarringly different depictions of the same person; readers are best served by treating each tale as its own alternate universe. The most successful manage to straddle the divide by leaning into folklore, such as “The Cold White Ones” by Susanne L. Lambdin, a standout unfortunately marred by the repeated use of a slur for Romani people. The contributions overall tend toward dark themes, dwelling on Marya’s depression after deaths in her family (a formative experience that loses its power through the repeated focus it receives) and the oppression she faced as a woman and from Russia’s occupation of Poland. Occasional free-verse poems from Jane Yolen seem more concerned with Curie’s adult self and need more context than the short stories. Many of the entries are followed by a “Science Note” explaining the science used (frequently chemical reactions) and giving historical and cultural context.

Ambitious and offbeat but suffering from repetitiveness. (further reading, editor bios, author bios) (Historical speculative fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 11, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-66504-703-6

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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POWERLESS

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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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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