Though not terribly innovative, still a solid choice for fantasy readers who prefer a large helping of adventure with their...

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EVER THE HUNTED

From the Clash of Kingdoms series , Vol. 1

On a quest to save her life by finding her father’s killer, a teen girl discovers conspiracies between kingdoms on the verge of war.

Outcast Britta Flannery, distrusted in Malam because her mother was from neighboring enemy country Shaerdan, has no income source and is about to lose her father’s land back to the crown after his death. He, the king’s bounty hunter, has been murdered. Caught poaching, Britta’s given a choice: instead of execution, she can use her tracking skills to bring down her father’s killer, revealed to her as Cohen Mackay, her father’s former apprentice and her best friend—whom she secretly loves. Devastated, she agrees. Soon, though, her mission to find her father’s killer takes her over the border into Shaerdan, where she learns a lot more about magic (forbidden and punishable by death in Malam—Britta herself has a secret ability, telling truths from lies), her family, and the dark power drawing the two countries into conflict. All characters seem to be white. Archer Britta is a familiar type of heroine, and the majority of the predictable plot twists happen right on schedule, but the writing quality is good. The strong climax sets up a cliffhanger for the sequel, which will not be unwelcome.

Though not terribly innovative, still a solid choice for fantasy readers who prefer a large helping of adventure with their romance. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-66445-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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