An entertaining foray into lifestyles of the rich and magical.

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WOLVES AND ROSES

From the The Fairy Tales of the Magicorum series , Vol. 1

A teenage girl, slated for a fairy-tale life, yearns for normality in this contemporary YA fantasy novel.

Bryar Rose was adopted by three fairy aunts, making her part of the Magicorum, a group of shape-shifters, fairies, and witches. As such, Bryar is meant to follow a fairy-tale life template—Sleeping Beauty’s, in her case, which means that she has “a magical illness that makes her fall asleep whenever she’s overexcited.” She’s set to wed her handsome prince, a hedge fund manager named Philpot, when she turns 18 in three days. Although Bryar is attractive, lives in a Manhattan penthouse, drives an “awesome car,” enjoys an “unlimited shopping account,” and is literally destined for a fairy-tale wedding, she nonetheless feels trapped. She despises Philpot and just wants to be “normal,” which she construes as studying ancient Egyptian papyri and going to an expensive, exclusive, but non-magical prep school for her senior year. “Normal” also includes freedom from her sleeping-sickness curse, which will end on her birthday. But soon, Bryar’s understanding of the magical world and her place in it is upended by dramatic events, including her teacher trying to murder her. She also meets a compelling young man named Knox, who exactly resembles the icy-blue-eyed stunner in her dreams. As her birthday approaches, Bryar finds herself in a life-and-death struggle. Bauer (Thrax, 2017, etc.) gives readers a good balance of YA romance and paranormal elements in this series opener. The main characters’ physical perfection and lavish wealth makes them even less realistic in a story that already rests on fantasy, but some readers will enjoy these wish fulfillment aspects. The well-balanced narrative alternates points of view between Bryar and Knox, which helps to establish their growing feelings for each other. Knox’s shape-shifting ability is a particularly good touch; his inner animal’s primal longing (“BRYAR ROSE MATE!”) cuts through both characters’ hesitations. A big battle scene at the end is exciting and well-conceived in fairy-tale and supernatural terms, giving the story a satisfying resolution while also setting up potential future developments.

An entertaining foray into lifestyles of the rich and magical.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-945723-07-0

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Monster House Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

MALICE

This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Familiar territory plumbed afresh; fantasy fans should be pleased.

A GIFT OF POISON

From the The Kingmakers' War series , Vol. 1

A girl who has been dismissed and distrusted for most of her life must prove herself in this quest novel.

Briand Varryda dresses like a boy and is the unwanted ward of her uncle. Denied education and often even food, she realizes that her only friends are her cousin Bran and, sometimes, the soldier Tibus. Briand can look after herself: She’s good with a knife and light on her feet. But this time, she’s in real trouble. Briand has cleaned out one soldier too many at the card game Dubbok. When Tibus saves her from vengeful pursuers, he has no choice but to then turn her over to Kael, steward of her uncle’s castle—who has a reputation for cruelty and who, with the help of Bran’s loathsome tutor, Nath, is conducting secret experiments involving young noblemen and poisonous snakes. Kael gives her one last chance. Briand tries to go straight; she attempts to do the right thing. But when she intervenes in one of Kael’s experiments, she gets more than she bargained for. By passing a test meant for Bran, Briand becomes a “dragonsayer,” with “the ability to speak to and sometimes control animals of magic, particularly dragons.” From despised guttersnipe, she has now risen to being the kingdom’s last hope against the usurper prince and his deadly Seekers—but that’s no reason for her companions to think any better of her. In this short novel, Ellison (With Tide and Tempest, 2014, etc.) takes fantasy tropes and makes them feel original. The same achievement can be seen in characterization. Briand and all the others are easily recognizable types but still seem unique. Briand, in particular, is somehow not the typical orphan who makes good. This is made possible by the author’s no-nonsense prose and pacing and some astute worldbuilding. The necessary background details (with the exception of some that find their way into speech) are foreshadowed rather than dumped. This allows Briand to forge her own path and for the story to grip and take hold. Although this is the first book in a series, the plot is largely self-contained. Readers will be left with closure but still wanting more.

Familiar territory plumbed afresh; fantasy fans should be pleased.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5028-7264-7

Page Count: 286

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

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