A skillful use of verse; moral conundrums and strange plot twists offer even stronger draws.

THE SEVENTH RAVEN

A teenager sets out to rescue her cursed older brothers in this verse retelling of the Grimms’ “The Seven Ravens.”

Upon learning at last that her brothers—all named Jack except the youngest, Robyn—had been transformed into birds at her birth by her father in a fit of pique, 15-year-old April resolutely undertakes what becomes a weary search for them. In the most notable wrinkle that Elliott adds to the original, Robyn, who had always felt like the odd one out anyway, quite enjoys being a raven, and when April climactically makes an extreme sacrifice to free her brothers, he is left separate from the others once again. Occasional white-on-black pages and Cai’s infrequent but brooding images of feathery swirls and distant turned-away silhouettes add further atmosphere to the sometimes-incantatory poetry. Following his practice in Bull (2017) and Voices (2019), the author employs multiple narrators, experiments with different verse models or set forms for each poem, and closes with analytical notes on the latter. April’s heroic sacrifices in the name of family ties are admirable, and the fact that they turn out not to be entirely appreciated offers chewy food for thought.

A skillful use of verse; moral conundrums and strange plot twists offer even stronger draws. (Verse fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-25211-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Sweet, if unremarkable.

BRIARHEART

A gentle “Sleeping Beauty”–inspired tale of teens training to defend a baby princess.

Fifteen-year-old Miri, beloved stepdaughter of the king, is freshly in love—with her baby sister. As the novel opens, Aurora’s christening looms, and any Disney fan will know what’s coming. However, this is Miri’s story, and pages of first-person description and exposition come before those events. Tirendell, like all kingdoms, has Light and Dark Fae. Dark Fae feed off human misery and sadness, but their desire to cause harm for self-benefit is tempered by the Rules. The Rules state that they can only act against humans under certain conditions, one being that those who have crossed them, for example, by failing to invite them to a royal christening, are fair game. Miri steps up instinctively at the moment of crisis and both deflects the curse and destroys the Dark Fae, which leads to the bulk of the novel: an extended and detailed day-to-day journey with Miri and her five largely indistinguishable new friends as they train in combat and magic to protect Aurora from future threats. With limited action and a minimal plot, this story lacks wide appeal but is notable for the portrait of deep familial love and respect, while the brief, episodic adventures (including talking animals) offer small pleasures. All characters are implied to be White.

Sweet, if unremarkable. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5745-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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