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

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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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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