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

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THE WAY BACK

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 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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This fresh reworking of a Greek myth will resonate.

NEVER LOOK BACK

An otherworldly Latinx retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth set in the South Bronx.

Pheus visits his father in the Bronx every summer. The Afro-Dominican teen is known for his mesmerizing bachata music, love of history, and smooth way with the ladies. Eury, a young Puerto Rican woman and Hurricane Maria survivor, is staying with her cousin for the summer because of a recent, unspecified traumatic event. Her family doesn’t know that she’s been plagued since childhood by the demonlike Ato. Pheus and Eury bond over music and quickly fall in love. Attacked at a dance club by Sileno, its salacious and satyrlike owner, Eury falls into a coma and is taken to el Inframundo by Ato. Pheus, despite his atheism, follows the advice of his father and a local bruja to journey to find his love in the Underworld. Rivera skillfully captures the sounds and feels of the Bronx—its unique, diverse culture and the creeping gentrification of its neighborhoods. Through an amalgamation of Greek, Roman, and Taíno mythology and religious beliefs, gaslighting, the colonization of Puerto Rico, Afro-Latinidad identity, and female empowerment are woven into the narrative. While the pacing lags in the middle, secondary characters aren’t fully developed, and the couple’s relationship borders on instalove, the rush of a summertime romance feels realistic. Rivera’s complex world is well realized, and the dialogue rings true. All protagonists are Latinx.

This fresh reworking of a Greek myth will resonate. (Fabulism. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0373-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A marvelous plunge into a beautifully crafted adventure.

THE STARDUST THIEF

This debut quest fantasy is the first of a trilogy concerning the revival of an ancient struggle between humans and jinn.

Years ago, assassins in black murdered all of Loulie al-Nazari’s tribe; unaccountably, a wandering jinn named Qadir took her under his protection, posing as her human bodyguard. Today, Loulie hides behind the identity of the Midnight Merchant, locating and selling illegal magical relics. But now the sultan of Madinne has found her out and is forcing her to go on a dangerous desert quest to find the most ancient relic of them all—a lamp imprisoning an enslaved but incredibly powerful jinn—which he intends to use to commit jinn genocide. Along with Qadir, her designated companions are the sultan’s cruel older son, Prince Omar, who rules the deadly band of jinn hunters known as the Forty Thieves, and Omar’s most trusted thief, Aisha. Except that the prince on this journey is actually Omar’s younger brother Prince Mazen, a softhearted and sheltered storyteller whom Omar has blackmailed into taking his place with a magical disguise. Aisha also has her own mission from Omar, which she cannot share. Burdened with secrets, this unlikely quartet encounter many perils while learning new and deadly things about the nature of jinn and of themselves. Several recent Middle Eastern fantasies have explored the complex and bloody relationship between human and jinn (with obvious relevance to contemporary sociopolitics), each in a gloriously unique way. This one offers brief but clever nods to such classic tales from One Thousand and One Nights as “Aladdin,” “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and the framing tale of Scheherazade, but then charts its own thrilling territory. Not only is the story exciting (although at least some of Omar’s plot will be obvious from early on), but the characterization and growth of the three human questers—and to a certain extent, the jinn Qadir—are extremely strong; all are driven to question everything they thought they knew and to consider whether that new knowledge will change their course of action.

A marvelous plunge into a beautifully crafted adventure.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-36876-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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