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A richly imagined world continues to deepen in the third book of this well-realized YA fantasy series.

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Intrigue and danger intensify as a one-time castle maid with royal blood and magical gifts tries to claim her birthright.

A chilling prologue opens the third book of this YA fantasy series, which began with The Crowns of Croswald (2017). Set in the throne room and dungeon of the Dark Queen, what occurs is a reminder of what orphan Ivy, now 18 and the realm’s secret, rightful queen, will face if she doesn’t find the final missing piece of a legendary stone that will empower her to take the throne—especially if the Dark Queen, who thrives on the fear of others, finds the stone first. Ivy’s confrontation with the Dark Queen in Book 2, The Girl With the Whispering Shadow (2019), left a once-protected city of magic in ruins. The author now broadens the plot further with more high-stakes occurrences and shadowy markers of what is to come, leavened by entertaining worldbuilding and budding romance. Ivy, hidden from the monarch’s farsight, is back at the school that was once her royal family’s ancestral home, honing her magic skills as a student scrivenist (using ink and quill to cast spells). Her best friend, another royal, is a shape-shifter. There are dragons and giant “invisitaurs” to ride, carnivorous trees, shops filled with magical curiosities, travel by root roller (propelled underground by the roots of trees) and much more. Yes, there are the inevitable Harry Potter–ish comparisons to be made, but the author has made this series her own with an imaginatively complex world peopled by a well-drawn cast of vulnerable, villainous, sympathetic, tragic, and very human characters who come to life on the page. (Ivy herself uses her artful magic to discover her past in the pages of The Words of the Wandering, an old journal about the curse that rendered her royal family homeless and driven to wander Croswald unseen.) Unexpected death and betrayal, a revelation about the Dark Queen’s origins, and Ivy’s question-mark fate are all part of the shocking setup for the next book in the series.

A richly imagined world continues to deepen in the third book of this well-realized YA fantasy series. (acknowledgments, author bio)

Pub Date: May 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73385-903-5

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Stories Untold Press

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2020

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From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy.

The underestimated sister of a soon-to-be queen has her own tale to tell in this companion novel to Levenseller’s The Shadows Between Us (2020).

Nineteen-year-old Chrysantha and her younger sister, Alessandra, who’s the fiancee of the Shadow King, don’t have the best relationship. Chrysantha has always been jealous of how easily Alessandra achieves success, while Alessandra thinks Chrysantha is a fool. For her part, Chrysantha uses this reputation as a facade and a means to an end while she patiently awaits the demise of her lewd—and wealthy—husband, the Duke of Pholios. With Chrysantha’s assistance, the 64-year-old duke dies, allowing his widow to drop the charade and focus on being independent and spending money according to her own whims and desires. That is, until distractingly handsome 18-year-old Eryx Demos arrives, claiming to be her late husband’s heir who’s ready to take control of the estate. Combining her objectives of outshining Alessandra at her royal wedding with enjoying some captivating arm candy and gaining Eryx’s trust in order to stab him in the back, Chrysantha takes up the job of molding Eryx into a proper duke. Chrysantha’s and Eryx’s wickedly charming personalities clash in the most pleasing and seductive ways, so that even though the plot feels repetitive at times, there’s still much to delight in. Chrysantha’s skin is “dark beige”; Eryx is “tanned” and has “tawny-brown hair.”

Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy. (Fantasy romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 9, 2024


Page Count: 336

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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