Occasionally contrived but entertaining.

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RETRIBUTION RAILS

In the Arizona Territory in 1887 a mining heiress meets an outlaw during a train robbery; violence, redemption, and romance ensue.

Narration alternates between Charlotte, who’s 16 and sheltered but dreams of becoming a reporter, and Reece, a reluctant, 18-year-old outlaw with a deadly reputation. He’s more compelling as a character, having been forcefully adopted into the murderous Rose Riders three years earlier because he can identify the man who killed the gang leader’s brother in the companion novel, Vengeance Road (2015). Reece regrets the horrible things he’s done with the gang, remaining with them mainly because Luther Rose, the leader, threatens Reece’s mother’s life should he run but also because he’s strangely attached to Rose, who is violent and threatening but also seems to have some affection for Reece, calling him “son” and imagining he will someday inherit gang leadership. Reece’s realization that freeing himself ultimately requires killing all the gang members comes with its own moral price tag. Meanwhile, he’s accidentally abducted Charlotte, who has her own melodramatic set of family problems but whose primary purpose seems to be learning to love the promise of a reformed Reece. Very conveniently they’re assisted in their quests for freedom by the couple who killed Rose’s brother 10 years earlier. Though Reece is biracial, with a Mexican mother and white father, his heritage is not plumbed, and most other characters are, like Charlotte, white.

Occasionally contrived but entertaining. (Western romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-91888-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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