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LIORNABELLA

From the Viridian Chronicles series , Vol. 1

While the magic builds slowly, this fantasy series opener possesses a grand allure.

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In this YA fantasy, a hero discovers her prestigious new school is connected to the mysterious dissolution of her nation’s royal family.

It is 1879 in the land of Liornabella. Seventeen-year-old Elle O’Sullivan from the town of Seraphina has been accepted to Eidolon University. She leaves behind her best friend, Martine, and rides the train before getting picked up by the school’s driver, Wiggins. At school, Elle and her roommate, Naomi Delphin, are sorted into the Sperrin Quintile, one of five houses that compete in games throughout the year. Though Elle is ginger-haired, unlike most of her country’s citizens, she shares with them a dedication to sports. During her morning runs, she gradually befriends the handsome Elan Grenfield, who moves in the same clique as haughty Ashana Lytle. While training their horses one day, Elle and Elan are stalked by a wolf. Luckily, a large “birdlike” creature chases it away. Other strange happenings plague Elle, including nightly whispers in the Great Hall and ghostly help after she nearly drowns during a swimming race. Events also start leading Elle “down a path” of research into Liornabella’s odd royal family, last led by King Barabus III, that dissolved in the late 17th century. Most intriguing is Princess Sinead, who would have been the nation’s first queen had she not disappeared. Outerbridge starts a YA fantasy series for older readers ready to enter an engaging, more grounded Harry Potter universe that’s nevertheless filled with magical artifacts and adults who aren’t what they seem. Studying is one of Elle’s most valuable skills; the appealing protagonist explores the memoir of Silas Hammond, Barabus’ servant, for clues about the royals’ vanishing. Liornabella is a curious realm, mimicking the 19th century superficially but being modern in terms of democratic governance and teen slang; the phrases kicking ass and holy crap are slightly jarring. Vibrant connections among other lands, such as Wisterian and Morosa, are skillfully drawn, creating fan thirst for deeper worldbuilding in future volumes. At the end of the deliberately paced tale, the author delivers a big, disturbing revelation. The hero’s potential for adventure expands yet striking mysteries remain.

While the magic builds slowly, this fantasy series opener possesses a grand allure.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77370-119-6

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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POWERLESS

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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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

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

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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. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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