The end is a long time coming, but readers sufficiently hardened by the preceding adventures’ florid prose to survive lines...

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TIGER'S DESTINY

From the Tiger's Curse series , Vol. 4

Ablaze with fiery passions—and sheets of actual fire, too—this conclusion to the Tiger’s Curse quartet brings Oregon teenager Kelsey and the two Indian were-tiger princes who have divided her heart through a climactic battle to a final, bittersweet mate selection.

Her chiseled suitors, Ren and Kishan, must first rescue her from a forced marriage to archenemy Lokesh (“I watched vile ecstasy overtake him as he kissed my palm and licked the red droplets from his lips”). Kelsey then accompanies the sultry siblings on an arduous quest beneath an active volcano for a Rope of Fire that will convey the trio to a decisive face-off with the demonic sorcerer thousands of years in the past. Having privately settled in a previous episode on Kishan as the more rational choice but still gobsmacked by Ren, her “dark Poseidon,” her “warrior angel,” Kelsey nevertheless still rattles between the brothers. They continue to ply her with verses from Shakespeare, Tennyson and other poets as part of a rival courtship impregnated (so to speak) with manly sensitivity. After battling her way past a teeming array of minor deities, vampiric Rakshasas and like creatures from Hindu and other mythologies, Kelsey at last fulfills her destiny as savior of India. Then, in fulfilling their own destinies, one brother dies (temporarily), and to clear the way for a wedding described in protracted, luxuriant detail, the other makes the ultimate sacrifice by going off with another woman (albeit a goddess in the making).

The end is a long time coming, but readers sufficiently hardened by the preceding adventures’ florid prose to survive lines like “After a few seconds of delicious fantasy, I mentally rebuffed myself,” and “[t]ingling bubbles of power coursed lazily between us,” are sure to be left throbbing and misty-eyed. (Paranormal romance. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4027-9843-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Splinter/Sterling

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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

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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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Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls.

THUNDERHEAD

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 2

Death proves impermanent in this sequel to Scythe (2016).

In a world run by the (almost) all-powerful and (almost) omniscient artificial intelligence Thunderhead, only the Honorable Scythes deal permanent death to near-immortal humans. Yet a growing contingent of scythes, feared and flattered by society and operating outside the Thunderhead’s control, are proving rather dishonorable. No longer apprentices, 18-year-olds Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch realize “the scythedom is…high school with murder” as they watch their fellow scythes jockey for power and prestige. Citra now gleans as Scythe Anastasia, questioning the status quo but also opposing the homicidally enthusiastic “new-order” scythes and their dangerous demagogue. Self-appointed as Scythe Lucifer, Rowan hunts other scythes whom he deems corrupt. Meanwhile, the existentially troubled Thunderhead questions its role as both creation and caretaker of humanity, sworn not to take life but fearing that its utopia will otherwise collapse into dystopia. Nationality and race are minimally mentioned—ethnic biases and genocide are considered very gauche—yet a population that defies death, aging, sickness, poverty, and war risks becoming bleakly homogenous, alleviated only by “unsavories” and scythes. This sequel digs deeper into Shusterman’s complex world and complicated characters, offering political maneuvering, fatal conspiracies, and impending catastrophe via a slowly unfurling plot and startling bursts of action.

Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7245-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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