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SO THIS IS EVER AFTER

An enticing read for both romance aficionados and D&D lovers.

King Arek pines after his court mage Matt.

Arek’s destiny was to defeat the Vile One and save the kingdom, but with that task done, he agrees to temporarily be the king until the true heir can be found. With the princess—the rightful heir—found dead in her tower, a magical inheritance clause keeps Arek tied to the throne. He must bind himself to his soul mate before his 18th birthday in three months—or die. Matt is his first choice, but, convinced that Matt doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, Arek turns to the princess’s diary for advice on courtship. While looking for love among his adventuring party–turned–royal advisers, Arek struggles to prove himself a worthy king to the mistrustful populace and avoid war with other kingdoms. A magical bard, prophecy-pushing wizard, and giant monster in a moat serve as a backdrop for a slow-burn romance. The casual acceptance of LGBTQ+ nobles and a central gay romance makes this a refreshing departure from the usual heteronormative feudal fantasies. Comedic moments abound without overshadowing or undermining the more high-stakes elements. Reading like the love child of a late-night D&D session gone awry and a romantic drama, Lukens' book is a delightfully original and whimsical narrative. Most characters default to White; one member of Arek’s group has dark skin and black hair.

An enticing read for both romance aficionados and D&D lovers. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9686-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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