What a tedious mess. Fans will, of course, adore it.

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CHOSEN AT NIGHTFALL

From the Shadow Falls series , Vol. 5

The Shadow Falls series concludes, but not before the protagonist’s constant confusion over her ex-boyfriends is drawn out as long as the author can manage to stretch it.

Kylie, who could teach a graduate seminar in indecisiveness to Hamlet, has taken the length of several books to discover just what type of supernatural being she is. She spends this one in ceaseless internal debate over her main heartthrob, the werewolf Lucas. In Whispers at Moonrise (2012), Lucas went through a sham engagement ceremony with another girl, and Kylie just won’t forgive him even though she knows he’s her soul mate. Meanwhile, Derek still loves her, so she’ll have to deal with her feelings for him, too. Hunter takes short breaks from the emotional turmoil to deliver a contrived, sitcom-worthy episode about pregnancy tests. She really hits the mark with a nifty, blood-drenched, sword-wielding, severed-head–carrying girl ghost who wants Kylie to kill someone. But alas, that imaginative plotline takes up only about one-tenth of the book, finally resolved in an exciting fight scene that’s quickly dispensed with so readers can get back to the important content: boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. The author delivers it all with the required romance-writing conventions of sentence fragments, adjectival adverbs and italics, although it is still of a higher quality than much in the romance genre.

What a tedious mess. Fans will, of course, adore it. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-01289-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls.

THUNDERHEAD

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 2

Death proves impermanent in this sequel to Scythe (2016).

In a world run by the (almost) all-powerful and (almost) omniscient artificial intelligence Thunderhead, only the Honorable Scythes deal permanent death to near-immortal humans. Yet a growing contingent of scythes, feared and flattered by society and operating outside the Thunderhead’s control, are proving rather dishonorable. No longer apprentices, 18-year-olds Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch realize “the scythedom is…high school with murder” as they watch their fellow scythes jockey for power and prestige. Citra now gleans as Scythe Anastasia, questioning the status quo but also opposing the homicidally enthusiastic “new-order” scythes and their dangerous demagogue. Self-appointed as Scythe Lucifer, Rowan hunts other scythes whom he deems corrupt. Meanwhile, the existentially troubled Thunderhead questions its role as both creation and caretaker of humanity, sworn not to take life but fearing that its utopia will otherwise collapse into dystopia. Nationality and race are minimally mentioned—ethnic biases and genocide are considered very gauche—yet a population that defies death, aging, sickness, poverty, and war risks becoming bleakly homogenous, alleviated only by “unsavories” and scythes. This sequel digs deeper into Shusterman’s complex world and complicated characters, offering political maneuvering, fatal conspiracies, and impending catastrophe via a slowly unfurling plot and startling bursts of action.

Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7245-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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