Bloated and banal

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BLACK CITY

From the Black City series , Vol. 1

Eyes will roll.

Ash is a scorned twin-blood Darkling—hybrid son of a human and a vampire—who hustles Haze, the drug that occurs naturally in Darkling venom, to the addicted human youth of Black City. Natalie is all human, daughter of Black City’s newly returned Emissary, local head of the national government that just won a bitter war against the Darklings and is committed to racial purity. When they meet under a bridge after Natalie slips her security detail, Natalie’s heart skips a beat. So does Ash’s, which is seriously weird, because twin-bloods’ hearts don’t beat at all. (Full Darklings have two hearts, one of the book’s many arbitrary and wholly unconvincing quirks of biology.) They meet again at school; they engage in pro forma animosity; they realize they love each other. While this narrative arc is entirely predictable, at least it is relatively short—but into the mix are thrown political upheaval, a murder mystery, a contagious wasting disease, brutality against animals, parental infidelity, steamy near-sex scenes, vivisection and public crucifixions, along with grindingly obvious parallels to Nazism and the American skinhead movement. Copious infodumps do not compensate for slipshod worldbuilding. There is as little nuance to the relationships as everything else; in addition to the ludicrous destiny that binds Natalie and Ash, friendships dissolve and come back together with all the subtlety of a preschool playground.

Bloated and banal . (Paranormal romance. 14-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15943-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy.

THE TEMPLE OF DOUBT

From the Temple of Doubt series , Vol. 1

A fantasy series opener pits adolescent angst against an all-powerful religion.

Living in Port Sapphire, on the island of New Meridian in the world of Kuldor, almost-16-year-old Hadara chafes under the tenets of a religion headed by the god Nihil that teaches that magic is superior to anything in nature. Since Hadara and her mother continue the passed-down-in-the-female-line family business of concocting healing potions from plants, the two are regarded with suspicion even as their services are sought out by townspeople. When an object falls from the sky into the marsh, Azwans (mages of Nihil) and their oversized Feroxi guards arrive to investigate, complicating things for Hadara and her family, not least because Hadara begins to have feelings for one of the guards. Although Hadara is a delightfully pert narrator, the story’s foremost tension—her subversive doubt of Nihil’s tenets—fails to reach its full potential because the religious concepts are not convincingly clear enough to weave themselves inextricably into the story. Levy shines brightest in her potent descriptions of settings and her imaginative scenes. Continuity, however, is a recurring problem. Among other lapses, the first two chapters seem to be two separate beginnings.

It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63220-427-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

HIT

A dual-narrator novel explores the concept of forgiveness.

Budding poet Sarah is torn between two colleges: Mills, which has offered her a full scholarship, and the University of Washington, whose only appeal is Mr. Haddings. A grad student and poet-in-residence at her school, the charismatic Haddings has Sarah considering a change of plans, to the dismay of Sarah’s controlling mother. Haddings knows he needs to keep the relationship professional, but he’s having a hard time with that. Then, in a moment of distraction, Haddings hits Sarah with his car. Over the next three days, Sarah will cope with the pain, the accident and her worries about her future, while her family—oblivious father, brittle mother and immature brother—and her best friend try to help her. Haddings copes with his crushing guilt, usually making choices that make everything worse. Straining credulity, both Sarah and Haddings wonder if there might be a chance for them still, when the more important question is whether they can ever forgive. Plot events are sequenced poorly and depend far too much on coincidence for their effect; the dual narrative does not provide substantial additional insight, making it feel contrived as well. Stilted dialogue makes characters feel flat, particularly Sarah’s brother.

Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-310-7295-0-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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