CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE

From the Mortal Instruments series , Vol. 6

The myriad magical, societal and romantic story threads of two series and nine books conclude without living up to the series’ purple promise.

Clary, Jace and a cast teeming with their supernatural—and supernaturally pretty—peers come together to defeat Clary’s literally soulless brother Sebastian. Instead of a slow reveal of mysteries until an inevitable climactic fight, the action of this series closer starts with a deadly attack in the prologue and continues through constant battle over the course of just over a week. Sebastian wants to rule the world (or possibly just get revenge on his mommy for never loving him), and he has phenomenal cosmic powers. A constantly shifting point of view in a world where Sebastian’s flunkies are always fomenting evil somewhere means the action is nonstop, yet somehow the pace drags. With so many characters at stake (even the surviving players from Clare’s steampunk Infernal Devices trilogy have a vital role), action and dialogue are continually derailed. Wit is another casualty, with the characters’ snark and pop-cultural cleverness taking a back seat to a gloopy spaghetti tangle of angst. Dedicated fans of the series will still find enjoyment in the daddy issues, wolfish grins and howling demons, though satisfying resolution plays second fiddle to setup for yet another series.

Bloated. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1689-5

Page Count: 752

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

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A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.

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THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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

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    Best Books Of 2016

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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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