This fantasy series installment maintains excitement through charming protagonists and ever evolving challenges.

FIFTH CHRONICLES OF ILLUMINATION

FRENEMIES

This YA fantasy sequel finds sweetheart protagonists solving an ancient puzzle, unaware that a friend intends to betray their magical library.

Recent high school graduates Johanna Charette and Jackson Roth are co-curators of the Library of Illumination. Theirs is one of a dozen libraries in the Illumini System that have magical properties, such as the contents of an open book literally springing to life. In their last epic adventure, the pair helped defeat interdimensional tyrant Nero 51. Now, Jackson is taking courses at Cranford University while Johanna teaches other members of the Roth clan how to run the library. Moving library fixtures one day, the curators find a wooden puzzle. With the help of Ryden Simmdry, Johanna’s father and overseer of the Libraries of Illumination, they open the puzzle and obtain a key. According to the oracle at the Library of Origination, the key unlocks the Re Transfigurator, “a device that transforms reality into something it is not.” Ryden then teaches Johanna a chant to focus her mind while telepathically scanning each dimension’s library for the device. And yet, perhaps these ancient artifacts have remained on separate worlds for a reason. Meanwhile, Jackson’s duplicitous friend Logan Elliott prepares to expose the Library of Illumination and jump-start his reporting career. Pack keeps her series fresh by following her grand prior installment with a back-to-basics adventure. Fans will be glad to reunite with characters like Pru Tellerence (Johanna’s mom) and revisit fanciful worlds such as Comedia and Mysteriose. The chemistry between Johanna and Jackson is playful but respectful. When she says, “Hold me as tightly as you can. I need full surface contact,” he replies, “Why can’t you ask me for that at home when we’re alone?” But Logan is grossly manipulative, particularly of Jackson’s sister, Ava. He parlays her crush on him into access to the library, and from there he abandons all journalistic integrity for his internet program, The Elliott Report. The curators have plenty of experience battling exotic baddies—including Ailill Caomhánach, the first Master of the Libraries—but their next fight may be against public opinion.

This fantasy series installment maintains excitement through charming protagonists and ever evolving challenges.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2020

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A second volume that sets the scene for more to come.

DEFEND THE DAWN

From the Defy the Night series , Vol. 2

As the Moonflower supply in Kandala dwindles, a ship arrives with a trade opportunity in this follow-up to Defy the Night (2021).

Moonflowers are critical for an elixir that cures the fever sickness. Prior to his assassination, King Lucas of Kandala sent a spy to neighboring Ostriary, whose connection with Kandala had been severed. Now Capt. Rian Blakemore arrives in Kandala claiming to be the spy’s son, offering Moonflowers in exchange for steel, and inviting a delegation to meet with the Ostrian king. Tessa Cade, outlaw-turned–royal apothecary, is eager to go. Since the invasion of the Royal Sector, Kandala’s King Harristan has attempted to negotiate better distribution of Moonflower petals to the poorer districts, but tension among the rebels, consuls, and royals has stalled progress. An alternate supply of Moonflowers would buy time for Tessa to find another cure. Her hope is countered by the cynicism of the King’s Justice, Prince Corrick. Nevertheless, he boards Blakemore’s ship along with Tessa and rebel leader Lochlan Cresswell. As Tessa and Corrick try to discern hidden motives and a possible trap, they reexamine their relationship, which gets tested by the mysterious captain. Chapters told in alternating perspectives draw out the plot at a measured pace, ending with a series of shocking revelations. The structure results in introspective accounts following different concurrent events, slowing the story’s forward momentum. Characters have varying skin tones.

A second volume that sets the scene for more to come. (map, cast of characters) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5476-1007-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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