3, 2, 1…blastoff for mystery, adventure, and queer intergalactic bodice-ripping.

THE DARKNESS OUTSIDE US

A privileged socialite and orphaned cadet unpack the true intention of their two-person mission to one of Saturn’s moons.

Ambrose Cusk of Fédération (think United States circa 2470) is the elegant, golden offspring of Alexander the Great’s DNA and an emotionally distant mother. Kodiak Celius of Dimokratía (think Russia) is a brawny orphan-turned-cadet. The two 17-year-olds are paired on a mission to find Ambrose’s long-lost sister, Minerva, who disappeared while attempting to colonize Titan. Her distress beacon has mysteriously been activated years later. The socially, physically, and emotionally opposite boys are slowly unified by their need to understand their fuzzy, pre-mission memories; to combat an omnipresent, self-serving OS (remember HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey?); and to get to the bottom of why there’s a vacuum-sealed supply of their own cloned bodies hidden on the ship. This Groundhog Day–type loop features complex worldbuilding in terms of space, time, light, and sound. What’s not complex are base human wants and needs like manicotti, making out, and memories. Ambrose and Kodiak realize that mutual affection is a way to validate one’s existence; that human connection is essential even if you’re determined to be a loner; and that even with the same memories and experiences, our choices in love and life can be completely, wonderfully different if we have a chance to do them again. And again. And again. Main characters are implied White.

3, 2, 1…blastoff for mystery, adventure, and queer intergalactic bodice-ripping. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-288828-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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In the end, it’s just another violent dystopian series opener for all its yellow-brick veneer, but it’s a whole lot more fun...

DOROTHY MUST DIE

When a cyclone deposits a 21st-century Kansas teen in Oz, she and readers discover there’ve been some changes made.

Dirt-poor “Salvation Amy” Gumm lives in a trailer park, effectively parenting her alcoholic mom (her dad ran off years ago), who seems to care more about her pet rat, Star, than her daughter. That doesn’t mean Amy is eager to be in Oz, particularly this Oz. Tyrannized by a megalomaniacal Dorothy and mined of its magic, it’s a dystopian distortion of the paradise Baum and MGM depicted. In short order, Amy breaks the wholly capricious laws and is thrown into a cell in the Emerald City with only Star for company. There, she’s visited first by the mysterious but sympathetic Pete and then by the witch Mombi, who breaks her out and takes her to the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked (among whom is the very hot Nox). Amy may well be the salvation of Oz—only someone from the Other Place can take Dorothy down. Paige has clearly had the time of her life with this reboot, taking a dystopian-romance template and laying it over Oz. Readers of Baum’s books will take special delight in seeing new twists on the old characters, and they will greet the surprise climactic turnabout with the smugness of insiders.

In the end, it’s just another violent dystopian series opener for all its yellow-brick veneer, but it’s a whole lot more fun than many of its ilk. (Dystopian fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-228067-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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