In this era of Katniss Everdeen, 300’s Gorgo, The Matrix’s Trinity, and the recently rebooted Wonder Woman, it takes more...



Though the back cover sells this book as a woman-centered take on Spartacus, readers will get the impression the author repeatedly played “Gladiator” and “300” video games while writing this story.

It’s the tale of 17-year-old Attia, the educated, Roman-enslaved daughter and only living child of Thracian warrior ruler Sparro, who named her the heir to his kingdom when she was 7 and later died battling the Romans, who annihilated her particular people, the Maedis. The warrior princess almost successfully battles her own way to freedom from sexual and household slavery until she’s recaptured by the watchmen of her new owner, the ruthless Timeus, a wealthy barker for the gladiatorial fights. Timeus buys Attia to emotionally tie his champion gladiator, 19-year-old Xanthus Maximus Colossus, to his own slavery and, by extension, to keep winning in the arena and increasing Timeus’ political capital. This is a textbook epic novel—sweeping fact, such as the volcanic destruction of Pompeii, and fiction into a tale of two heroes motivated by love for each other and conquered-nation pride. And it’s a textbook that’s fun reading on an after-chores Saturday or a curl-up-in-bed Sunday.

In this era of Katniss Everdeen, 300’s Gorgo, The Matrix’s Trinity, and the recently rebooted Wonder Woman, it takes more than a female Spartacus to make a thoughtfully feminist adventure. (Historical fiction/romance. 13-18) 

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8009-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.


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.


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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