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A creative, if sometimes-confusing, coming-of-age fantasy tale.

A neglected girl encounters unexplainable events in Herkert’s YA novel.

Thirteen-year-old Perry Shiner has a distant, neglectful single mother and a lonely life at school, so she’s become used to forging her own solitary path through adolescence. But although chaos is familiar to Perry, her town of Hex Point, New Jersey, is about to deal with supernatural events to which its residents aren’t accustomed. Perry, in a dream, encounters an otherworldly blue being that speaks to her: “It appeared to be swaying slightly, side to side, like it was adrift on the sea.” Unsure of what to think about it, she keeps her visions to herself—until a rekindled friendship results in a violent attack, and reveals a connection between “the other side” and her own reality. The young protagonist’s uncle, Martin Shiner—who also meets the blue being, who presents him with a warning involving Perry—and his family, alongside private investigator Alex Peters, who catches a whiff of the case, work hard to protect Perry from paranormal happenings. The tale is told through the alternating third-person perspectives of Perry, Martin, Alex, and others, so it may take a while for readers to piece together the various characters and events. At the start, readers are immediately dropped into an atypical scenario without any worldbuilding to explain why the town is specifically affected by the supernatural—and why a young, troubled teen is the one tasked with saving it. Characters are also surprisingly quick to believe the paranormal aspects of their situation; there’s little to no disbelief, reflection, or searching for answers, which results in behavior that feels inauthentic. That said, the author does a great job of painting an intricate picture of each scene—specifically Perry’s dreams and Martin’s supernatural encounters. However, such descriptions occasionally disrupt the story’s flow, burying important details and making it difficult to discern what’s significant and what’s not. Although questions are left unanswered, the conclusion satisfyingly addresses the novel’s themes of redemption, family, and second chances.

A creative, if sometimes-confusing, coming-of-age fantasy tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2023

ISBN: 9798987827406

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2023

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From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy.

The underestimated sister of a soon-to-be queen has her own tale to tell in this companion novel to Levenseller’s The Shadows Between Us (2020).

Nineteen-year-old Chrysantha and her younger sister, Alessandra, who’s the fiancee of the Shadow King, don’t have the best relationship. Chrysantha has always been jealous of how easily Alessandra achieves success, while Alessandra thinks Chrysantha is a fool. For her part, Chrysantha uses this reputation as a facade and a means to an end while she patiently awaits the demise of her lewd—and wealthy—husband, the Duke of Pholios. With Chrysantha’s assistance, the 64-year-old duke dies, allowing his widow to drop the charade and focus on being independent and spending money according to her own whims and desires. That is, until distractingly handsome 18-year-old Eryx Demos arrives, claiming to be her late husband’s heir who’s ready to take control of the estate. Combining her objectives of outshining Alessandra at her royal wedding with enjoying some captivating arm candy and gaining Eryx’s trust in order to stab him in the back, Chrysantha takes up the job of molding Eryx into a proper duke. Chrysantha’s and Eryx’s wickedly charming personalities clash in the most pleasing and seductive ways, so that even though the plot feels repetitive at times, there’s still much to delight in. Chrysantha’s skin is “dark beige”; Eryx is “tanned” and has “tawny-brown hair.”

Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy. (Fantasy romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 9, 2024


Page Count: 336

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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