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THE WAY BACK

Steeped in the rich traditions of ghost stories and Jewish folklore, this remarkable feat of storytelling is sure to delight.

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A Jewish boy and girl journey to the Far Country on the other side of the cemetery seeking to find that which they lost.

The story begins in a shtetl called Tupik, where a boy named Yehuda Leib and a girl named Bluma each have unexpected encounters with Death, setting them both on separate journeys through the cemetery on the edge of the village and into the Far Country, seeking the House of Death to reclaim what they lost. On their way, they pass through the town of Zubinsk, where the holy Rebbe’s granddaughter is about to be married in a highly anticipated wedding that draws not only Hasidim and visitors from all over, but also all manner of demons and spirits seeking an audience with the revered Rebbe. Bluma’s and Yehuda Leib’s winding paths cross until they finally band together to defeat their mutual foe with the help of some unlikely allies they meet along the way. Though their cleverness, grit, and dastardly alliances may get them far in the Far Country, they may not ultimately be enough to defeat Death itself. Lyrical and fantastic, this richly layered yarn is liberally sprinkled with bits of Yiddish and a wry, sparkling humor that balances its darker tendencies with sympathy and warmth.

Steeped in the rich traditions of ghost stories and Jewish folklore, this remarkable feat of storytelling is sure to delight. (Fantasy. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984894-62-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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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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