An entertaining diversion into queer witchcraft and dark magic marred by ignorance of its setting.

WITCHES OF ASH & RUIN

A coven of modern witches seeks power from ancient Celtic gods.

Dayna Walsh may be a witch, but magic is just one of the ways she’s othered in her small Irish town: She struggles with OCD and was just outed as bisexual—an especially painful revelation given that her father is the reverend of the local church. Dayna has more than enough trouble to deal with even before a group of rival witches shows up. Chemistry sparks between Dayna and the group’s quasi-leader, a girl named Meiner; their romance blooms with charm and realism. The vivacious, twisty plot brims with satisfyingly dark magic supported by a diverse and well-developed cast of characters, including Dayna’s friend Reagan, who is dark-skinned and whose Nigerian mother attends mosque. The Irish setting, however, reads as bizarrely unresearched; on every level, from the linguistic to the cultural, this is a North American small town transplanted in whole to another country. North American references and slang abound, but the descriptions of religious life ring most hollow: Dayna’s father is leader of a formerly Catholic church yet is called “reverend” and, of course, is married and has a child. Modern-day Ireland is still haunted by a dark history of sectarian violence; ignorance of that history feels especially offensive in a story of clashing magical traditions such as this.

An entertaining diversion into queer witchcraft and dark magic marred by ignorance of its setting. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-05225-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Freeform/Disney/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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