Troubling and moving in equal measure.

THORNLIGHT

Children must save a kingdom in a stand-alone companion to Foxheart (2016).

In the Vale, a massive Break ripped the mountains from the now-lost lowlands. Now the wicked Gulgot climbs ever closer to the top of the chasm, pushing darkness and evil before it. Twelve-year-old, pale-skinned Brier is Westlin’s darling, riding her unicorn and capturing the lightning needed for the war; Thorn, her street-sweeping identical twin, cries easily and considers herself the shadow of her sister. But when lightning injures Brier, Thorn finds herself impersonating Brier on a perilous journey to find more ammunition to use against the Gulgot. While Thorn is the titular protagonist, the perspective shifts among both sisters as well as the 16-year-old Queen, Celestyna, and Cub, a mysterious creature orphaned by the Break. Thorn’s story comprises mostly rousing, if perilous adventure, a nascent lesbian crush, and some sad losses, but Celestyna’s arc concerns the royal curse that fights the Gulgot and contains violence at odds with the otherwise family-friendly story. Thorn may not recognize her own strength, but the many depictions of family, especially sisters, make it clear to readers that the gentle heart is the stronger one. Luscious writing and magical moments notwithstanding, the complex moral questions make this suited to an older audience than the package would suggest. Illustrations not seen.

Troubling and moving in equal measure. (map) (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-269666-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences.

REALM BREAKER

When the realm is in danger, only a small band of misfits can save Allward.

An in medias res prologue, told from the point of view of the lone squire accompanying the 12 Companions of the Realm, tosses readers into the thick of a quest. Half the Companions are human heroes and half are immortal Elders; they seek to stop a rogue thief and his wizard accomplice from using a magical Spindle to tear a passage between worlds for nefarious ends. A disastrous battle sends squire Andry fleeing with Cortael’s sword so villain Taristan can’t get his hands on it. Grieving Elder Dom requires both a person of Corblood (a descendant of human travelers from another realm) and the Spindleblade Andry protects to stop Taristan from bringing ruin to the realm. Dom seeks Cortael’s secret daughter, Corayne, a bright but sheltered teenager with a pirate mother. At times the narrative tension is undermined by flashbacks that readers already know the conclusions to and by occasional repetition caused by the multiple point-of-view jumps, but there’s a wide variety of action scenes, daring escapes, and betrayals. Many tropes and character types are familiar, but exquisite descriptions and clashing motivations result in a nuanced, sprawling realm with a sense of complicated history. This world is highly diverse in terms of both skin tone and in the refreshing range of roles female characters inhabit.

An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287262-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A slo-mo environmental disaster story.

THE NATURE OF WITCHES

Weather witches confront climate change in this fantasy.

Clara Densmore is her generation’s sole Everwitch and is unwilling to embrace her powers. Unlike the male and female autumn, winter, spring, and summer witches, whose powers peak during their respective seasons, Clara thrives year-round. At the Eastern School of Solar Magic in Pennsylvania, 17-year-old Clara shuns friendships and only does short-term flings, as her love can be lethal and has already killed her parents and best friend. Losing her powers seems like the selfless solution, but nonmagical shaders have pushed the planet too far with their environmental destruction. Seasonal witches are starting to die amid accelerated natural disasters—and only Clara can save the world. A budding romance with magical mentor/visiting botany student 18-year-old Sang Park from California helps Clara bloom. Redheaded, blue-eyed Clara is cued as White, and Sang is Korean American—but race, class, and other identity-related concerns are rarely a factor in this world. Debut author Griffin unfortunately fails to breathe new life into chosen one fantasy tropes—the obligatory villain, the unavoidable romance, the overly dramatic sacrifice—but excels at lush and lovely descriptions of nature and the weather and delivers a stern, if heavy-handed, message about environmental consequences of modern living.

A slo-mo environmental disaster story. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72822-942-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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