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

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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An overall entertaining read.

THE PRETENDERS

From the Similars series , Vol. 2

In this sequel to The Similars (2018), tensions rise as the villains reveal a ploy to exact revenge on the Ten and their families and ultimately take over the world.

When Emma Chance returns to her elite boarding school, Darkwood Academy, for her senior year, things are different: Her best friend, Ollie Ward, is back while Levi Gravelle, Ollie’s clone and Emma’s love interest, has been imprisoned on Castor Island. More importantly, Emma is coming to terms with the contents of a letter from Gravelle which states that she is Eden, a Similar created to replace the original Emma, who died as a child. To complicate matters further, other clones—who are not Similars—infiltrate Darkwood, and Emma and her friends uncover a plot that threatens not only the lives of everyone they care about, but also the world as they know it. Hanover wastes no time delving right into the action; readers unfamiliar with the first book may get lost. This duology closer is largely predictable and often filled with loopholes, but the fast-paced narrative and one unexpected plot twist make for an engaging ride. As before, most of the primary characters read as white, and supporting characters remain underdeveloped. Despite its flaws and often implausible turns of events, the novel calls attention to larger questions of identity, selfhood, and what it means to be human.

An overall entertaining read. (Dystopia. 13-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6513-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries.

THE BETRAYED

Lady Hollis flees her country after her new husband is killed.

In The Betrothed (2020), Hollis fell in love with Silas, the son of an Isolten family who sought asylum from their cruel king, and chose him over her intended match, King Jameson. Since Silas, his father, his brothers, and her parents have been killed, she decides to travel to Isolte with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Formerly primarily interested in dresses, dancing, and romance, Hollis now proves her mettle. Etan, Silas’ cousin, arrives to escort the family, and he clashes with Hollis from the moment they meet. The society they live in, modeled after medieval Europe, with castles, tournaments, kings, queens, and nobles, generally follows traditional gender roles, but Hollis sometimes breaks through the accepted boundaries. When Etan wants to lead a revolt against his own King Quinten, who is just one of the novel’s major betrayers, Hollis uses her wits to get the evidence needed to convince others that he is guilty of crimes against his own people. She bravely returns to Coroa to confront King Jameson when she finds out that he, too, has carried out unspeakable crimes. Hollis and Etan’s verbal wars are fun, predictably leading to love, but the political intrigue sometimes drags the novel down. Characters default to White.

Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-229166-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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