Less a bold rebellion, more a boring bureaucracy, albeit with a strong, doomed female protagonist.

STAR WARS: QUEEN'S SHADOW

A former queen plays politics to guide the galaxy’s future in this Star Wars novel.

After four years as Naboo’s Queen Amidala, Padmé Amidala Naberrie retires…to become a senator of the galactic Republic. Accompanied by new handmaidens—bodyguards/body doubles—to Coruscant, she tries to fight slavery (and find young Anakin Skywalker), avoid assassination, restore her public image, and retain her idealism. Tasked with reviving a main character from the often critically and popularly reviled prequels, Johnston (That Inevitable Victorian Thing, 2017, etc.) explores the diverse settings, delights in the alien cultures, and even expands the romantic possibilities to include same-sex relationships. Padmé and her handmaidens are assumed white; other humanoids' races are only noted when not white. The various species of Star Wars appear here but only as background characters. Readers without encyclopedic Star Wars knowledge receive name-dropping and cross-referencing rather than character development, while critics of Episodes I through III may still reject this interlude’s earnest explanations for the cinematic sources’ flaws, which are reproduced here—too much politicking, not enough passion. Padmé is a potent symbol but remains a flat character, restricted by her political role, her ornate, excessively described costuming, and her circumscribed cinematic fate. Sabé, her former but steadfast handmaid, has more depth but regrettably fewer chapters.

Less a bold rebellion, more a boring bureaucracy, albeit with a strong, doomed female protagonist. (Science fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02425-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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The personal and the political intertwine in this engaging series opener.

DEFY THE NIGHT

The only effective treatment for the lethal fever that plagues Kandala is a potion derived from the rare Moonflower.

Medicine is allocated to each sector of the kingdom by the decree of King Harristan, but the supply is limited. Thieves, smugglers, and black marketeers are subject to punishment and execution overseen by the cruel Prince Corrick in his role as the King’s Justice. Like many in Kandala, Tessa Cade loathes the king and his younger brother for ignoring the plight of those who cannot afford treatment. With the help of her close friend Weston, the 18-year-old apothecary’s assistant steals Moonflower petals from the wealthy and makes potions to distribute among the poor. Soon after Wes is caught by the night patrol, Tessa is presented with an opportunity to sneak into the palace. She enters with the intention of taking a sample of the palace’s potent Moonflower elixir only to be captured and brought before Prince Corrick, who, Tessa discovers, might not be as heartless as she originally believed. The slow-burn romance—between an idealist with straightforward moral beliefs and a pragmatist trapped by duty—will keep the pages turning, as will the scheming of the king’s consuls and the rebellion brewing in the background. Tessa and Corrick are cued White; other characters’ skin colors range from beige to deep brown.

The personal and the political intertwine in this engaging series opener. (map, cast of characters) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0466-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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