Fascinating female characters in a richly built fantasy world that delivers slowly on adventure.

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THE AFTERWARD

Lady knights return to town as heroes—and struggle with life after fame.

Sir Erris Quicksword returns victorious to the city of Cadria with her six faithful companions, having managed to find the magical godsgem and destroy the evil Old God. Welcomed home with great rewards and acclaim, Sir Erris marries the king, and peace returns to the kingdom. Bisexual Olsa Rhetsdaughter, the one lowborn member, feels utterly abandoned and falls back into a life of struggle and thievery. Meanwhile, apprentice knight Kalanthe Ironheart, who is lesbian, returns from her first mission only to prepare apprehensively for marriage—likely to a wealthy man hoping for heirs and willing to pay off her family’s debt. Johnston (That Inevitable Victorian Thing, 2017, etc.) weaves a compelling fantasy world in which meticulously crafted female characters slip easily between chain mail and dresses, enjoying many freedoms and yet facing economic and biological pressures to marry men. The narrative flits between the great quest and “the afterward,” revealing the romantic love between dutiful Kalanthe and defiant Olsa. The characters are diverse—including trans and asexual representation—and many are portrayed as beautifully dark-skinned with natural hair. Impatient readers will note that there’s an awful lot of armor and weaponry with very little questing. It’s with some relief that there’s trouble in the realm once again.

Fascinating female characters in a richly built fantasy world that delivers slowly on adventure. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3189-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A purple page turner.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Clockwork Angel (2010) pits gorgeous, attractively broken teens against a menacing evil.

There's betrayal, mayhem and clockwork monstrosities, and the Shadowhunters have only two weeks to discover—oh, who are we kidding? The plot is only surprisingly tasty icing on this cupcake of a melodramatic love triangle. Our heroes are Tessa, who may or may not be a warlock, and the beautiful Shadowhunter warrior boys who are moths to her forbidden flame. It's not always clear why Tessa prefers Will to his beloved (and only) friend Jem, the dying, silver-eyed, biracial sweetheart with the face of an angel. Jem, after all, is gentle and kind, her dearest confidante; Will is unpleasant to everyone around him. But poor, wretched Will—who "would have been pretty if he had not been so tall and so muscular"—has a deep, dark, thoroughly emo secret. His trauma puts all previous romantic difficulties to shame, from the Capulet/Montague feud all the way to Edward Cullen's desire to chomp on Bella Swan. Somehow there's room for an interesting steampunk mystery amid all this angst. The supporting characters (unusually well-developed for a love-triangle romance) include multiple compelling young women who show strength in myriad ways. So what if there are anachronisms, character inconsistencies and weird tonal slips? There's too much overwrought fun to care.

A purple page turner. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7588-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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