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SPELL BOUND

A delightful novel about magic and belonging.

Two teens apprenticed to rival sorcerers start to fall for each other as the world around them implodes.

Nonmagical almost-17-year-old Edison “Rook” Rooker just wants back into the world of magic that he lost when his grandmother passed away. And while being magicless himself is a major obstacle, his optimistic scheme to develop an illegal yet scientific way to access magic while being apprenticed to powerful sorceress Antonia Hex is pretty much going according to plan. Until, that is, the Magical Consortium gets wind of his detection device. Given how Antonia—due to previous run-ins with the Consortium—is not technically allowed to have new apprentices, she is arrested alongside rival colleague/accomplice Fable. Rook is now on the run, hiding from those who want to prevent him from accessing magic and determined to rescue Antonia and Fable with help from Sun, Fable’s introverted, annoyingly cute, and extremely magical apprentice. While the strong worldbuilding and the overall arc about magic, oppression, and overcoming obstacles are well done, the true highlight of the novel lies in its cozy sense of humor, relationships, and theme of belonging, explored both in terms of working families created by apprentices and masters and the endearing grumpy-sunshine romance that develops between Rook and Sun. Both Sun and Fable are nonbinary. Antonia is brown-skinned; Sun is implied Korean, and Rook is assumed White.

A delightful novel about magic and belonging. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9781665916226

Page Count: 336

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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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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