A brilliant second act that can be read alone.

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From the Serpentine series , Vol. 2

This thrilling sequel to Pon's Serpentine (2015) begins soon after the Great Battle between mortals and demons, as Skybright and her compatriots struggle with the fallout and face the looming threat of a new breach to the underworld.

Vivid sensory descriptions make the Chinese-inflected fantasy kingdom of Xia an immersive world. The mortal realm, the heavens, and the underworld are at once enchanting and terrifying, and at the story’s core are dynamic characters who resist confinement to archetypes. Torn away from her mortal life, Skybright grows to accept her nature as a serpent demon without rejecting her love for her friends. Zhen Ni, meanwhile, displays extraordinary cunning as she navigates her new duties as a wife while uncovering her husband’s dark plans. Kai Sen’s fierce determination to save Skybright and break the covenant makes him shed his dreamer personality to hone his magic. Stone, immortal intermediary to the gods, learns to respect and admire the mortals as he witnesses the strength of their will. The narration unfolds through their four points of view, shifting perspectives at key scenes rather than chapter by chapter. The resulting dramatic irony tests the characters’ integrity and their faith in one another. Still, they are impressively wise and compassionate, acting, when pressed, out of loyalty rather than bitterness.

A brilliant second act that can be read alone. (Fantasy. 15 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944816-52-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Month9Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary,...

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THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE

The pitiless dictatorship of Francisco Franco examined through the voices of four teenagers: one American and three Spaniards.

The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936-1939, but Franco held Spain by its throat for 36 years. Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2016, etc.) begins her novel in 1957. Daniel is a white Texan who wants to be a photojournalist, not an oilman; Ana is trying to work her way to respectability as a hotel maid; her brother, Rafael, wants to erase memories of an oppressive boys’ home; and Puri is a loving caregiver for babies awaiting adoption—together they provide alternating third-person lenses for viewing Spain during one of its most brutally repressive periods. Their lives run parallel and intersect as each tries to answer questions about truth and the path ahead within a regime that crushes any opposition, murders dissidents, and punishes their families while stealing babies to sell to parents with accepted political views. This formidable story will haunt those who ask hard questions about the past as it reveals the hopes and dreams of individuals in a nation trying to lie its way to the future. Meticulous research is presented through believable, complex characters on the brink of adulthood who personalize the questions we all must answer about our place in the world. 

A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary, photographs) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16031-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER

Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, would rather perform autopsies in her uncle’s dark laboratory than find a suitable husband, as is the socially acceptable rite of passage for a young, white British lady in the late 1800s.

The story immediately brings Audrey into a fractious pairing with her uncle’s young assistant, Thomas Cresswell. The two engage in predictable rounds of “I’m smarter than you are” banter, while Audrey’s older brother, Nathaniel, taunts her for being a girl out of her place. Horrific murders of prostitutes whose identities point to associations with the Wadsworth estate prompt Audrey to start her own investigation, with Thomas as her sidekick. Audrey’s narration is both ponderous and polemical, as she sees her pursuit of her goals and this investigation as part of a crusade for women. She declares that the slain aren’t merely prostitutes but “daughters and wives and mothers,” but she’s also made it a point to deny any alignment with the profiled victims: “I am not going as a prostitute. I am simply blending in.” Audrey also expresses a narrow view of her desired gender role, asserting that “I was determined to be both pretty and fierce,” as if to say that physical beauty and liking “girly” things are integral to feminism. The graphic descriptions of mutilated women don’t do much to speed the pace.

Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging . (Historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-27349-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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