A riveting, old-fashioned fantasy tale with a resilient heroine.

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HALFLING

A middle-grade debut novel tells the story of a girl torn between her native dream world and an alien reality.

Fourteen-year-old Remmi Clearwater works as a drone in the Cavern Lands of Penumbra. Her masters think that they have mind-drained away her magical talents, but Remmi retains them, keeping them hidden as she plots her escape. Penumbra is in Dreamearth, the fantastic parallel world to Realearth. Realearth visitors only enter Dreamearth in their dreams. Remmi’s ability to create illusions—to disguise herself by temporarily taking on a different form—comes from the fact that she is a Halfling, born to a Dreamearth mother and a Realearth father. Such offspring are feared for their unpredictable powers: “They can manipulate the surroundings and even hurl people great distances with just a thought. They’ve even been known to cross over into Realearth and convince people they were blasted gods.” Remmi manages to flee Penumbra and put her magic to use elsewhere in the Dreamearth tourism industry while still attempting to uncover the secret of her origins—and the fates of her parents. Despite people’s opinions of Halflings, when a cataclysm threatens Dreamearth, Remmi may be the only one who can save it. Robb tells her story with a sense of fun and wonder that is so often missing from contemporary fantasy. Her prose is elegantly simple, conjuring wondrous images: “Not ordinary clouds, as I’d often seen from the ground. These appeared to be animals with thick, cottony fleeces. Like clouds, they faintly resembled a variety of creatures.” The author treats the plot seriously even as the world in which it is set—with place names like the Archetypal Sea and the Collective Unconsciousness Forest—winks at the reader. The result is reminiscent of the Oz stories of L. Frank Baum: the reader becomes emotionally invested in the characters while still enjoying the frivolity of the setting. Standard tropes of the genre abound, but there is an originality to the premise and vision that keeps the story fresh. The ending, in particular, is unexpectedly affecting.

A riveting, old-fashioned fantasy tale with a resilient heroine.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5398-4154-8

Page Count: 298

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

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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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

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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