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SWORD & SORCERY

FROSTFIRE

An intricate and enjoyable adventure with a striking cast.

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The lives of four young people entwine in this YA fantasy full of magic, escapades, and secrets that can change their world.

Growing up on the streets of Bogudos, Erevan learned a lot about life, survival, and loyalty. Now a budding mercenary alongside his adoptive father, Sir Lee, the teenager still carries guilt over a debt he owes to an old friend, who’s stuck in jail because of Erevan’s mistake. When Nya, a mysterious courier with a covert mission, offers to hire him and Sir Lee to guide and protect her on an unforgiving, dangerous route, Erevan is the first to say yes despite some misgivings. Meanwhile, in the country of Lanasall, Aireyal has been accepted into the prestigious Darr-Kamo magic school despite her big secret: She cannot perform magic yet. It is Aireyal’s greatest desire to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Grandmage June Ando, one of the most important people in the Senate of Mages. Aireyal is running out of time to ignite her powers before her sham is unveiled. When she befriends Zale, an apprentice apothecarist and fellow classmate, she doesn’t realize that she is getting enmeshed in a secret that involves two powerful mirrors, a mythical dragon egg, and the political fate of their world. Avery’s fantasy adventure follows Erevan’s and Aireyal’s parallel stories in an intertwined narrative that becomes richer and fuller with every new chapter. Both characters yearn for acceptance, hope for a better future, and struggle under the weight of pressures and expectations. Aireyal’s battles with anxiety and low self-esteem are particularly poignant. The storytelling deftly explores these characters’ inner lives while building a vivid world full of diverse people and magic. Little by little, Avery unveils the true scope of the tale. The story eventually encompasses history, politics, social unrest, and mythology as well as different perspectives on truth, trust, and power. The two main characters are 16 years old but often sound and act younger. This makes the tone of the narrative slightly incongruous but not enough to offset what is otherwise a superb start to a new series.

An intricate and enjoyable adventure with a striking cast.

Pub Date: April 22, 2022

ISBN: 979-8-9856228-2-9

Page Count: 434

Publisher: Stories by Storytellers

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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POWERLESS

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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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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