A thoughtful dystopian drama.

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WHISPER

Struyk-Bonn’s debut offers a darkly hopeful take on the universal themes of family and identity.  

Born with a cleft palate and exiled to the wilderness of an unnamed country for 15 years, Whisper has made a ragged family of her fellow outcasts, all of whom bear some disfigurement. Upon her mother’s death, her abusive father comes to claim her for a slave. With nothing but a violin, a veil, and the memories of her mother and makeshift family, Whisper discovers that she has a rudimentary power over the society that scorns her. Class and gender questions arise: Is the omnipresent SWINC corporation responsible for a rise in genetic defects? Why do disfigured boys remain in their villages? She soon lives hand to mouth as a busker for Purgatory Palace, a ribald community of misfits where the threat of prostitution or capture is never far. Whisper’s somewhat fairy-tale luck in finding benefactors—a fatherly music professor and a surgeon among them—is tempered by her literally brutal realization that she bridges two worlds and doesn’t belong completely in either. Thus, her dilemma is agonizing: If the surgeon could cure Whisper and her family, would she agree? The author’s vivid characterizations give this common trope urgency and nuance, and Whisper’s answer resonates with hard-won conviction.

A thoughtful dystopian drama. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0475-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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