Engrossing and more nuanced than its predecessor.

TWIST OF THE BLADE

From the Shards of Excalibur series , Vol. 2

The sequel to The Song of the Sword (2014) improves on its foundation.

Ariane Forsythe is changing. She can feel the recently claimed shard of Excalibur, the legendary sword of King Arthur, infecting her thoughts and feelings with its cold desire to kill. It’s this drive to violence that leads to Ariane’s vigorous defense of herself against school bullies landing said bullies in the hospital. Wally Knight, Ariane’s friend and partner in her quest to reclaim the shards of Excalibur, is shocked when Ariane doesn’t visit him when he is hospitalized after an accident and is further horrified to learn Ariane’s powers have hospitalized his sister, one of the bullies. Wally’s discomfort with Ariane’s recent behavior is further deepened when Rex Major (Merlin, in his contemporary guise) encourages Wally to question the motives of the Lady of the Lake, who tasked Ariane and Wally with the quest. When Ariane discovers new powers, she uses them to travel to the location of the next shard—but her unpredictable actions there lead to danger and distrust. Willett realistically explores the difficulties Ariane and Wally face and paints Rex Major in such a light that readers may be unsure as to whether he is a master manipulator or misunderstood hero.

Engrossing and more nuanced than its predecessor. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55050-599-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Coteau Books

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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