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An absorbing exploration of truest friendship and the fulfillment that comes from knowing one’s worth.

For the islanders of Fuiscea, everything is determined by the will of the gods.

Áila LacInis, a fisherman’s daughter with tanned skin, green eyes, and dark, curly hair, awaits the moment when the goddess Yslet will tell her what her vocation will be. Only the Unblessed, the most unfortunate people on Fuiscea, are deprived by Yslet of any special aptitude. Among them is Hew LacEllan, a lanky, auburn-haired laborer with an unwavering faith in the gods despite the abuse he faces at the hands of his fellow islanders. To Áila’s shock, Yslet fails to appear at her Goddess Trial; Áila instead is faced with Orail, a strange doglike creature who possesses the power to grant wishes. The goddess’s absence means Áila must complete a series of intensive Ordeals intended to test the gods’ favor. In the process, Hew, Áila, and Orail become bound together as three outcasts fighting the limits of tradition. Unfolding through their three alternating viewpoints (Orail’s sections are in verse), the story’s rich narration is sure to enchant fantasy lovers. While the first half of the novel seems disconnected from the conclusion due to an unexpected redirection of the twist-filled plot, themes of identity and belief are carried throughout a text that’s layered with references to Scottish lore.

An absorbing exploration of truest friendship and the fulfillment that comes from knowing one’s worth. (map, author’s note, glossary) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2023

ISBN: 9780310156222

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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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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From the Caraval series , Vol. 1

Immersive and engaging, despite some flaws, and destined to capture imaginations.

Magic, mystery, and love intertwine and invite in this newest take on the “enchanted circus” trope.

Sisters raised by their abusive father, a governor of a colonial backwater in a world vaguely reminiscent of the late 18th century, Scarlett and Donatella each long for something more. Scarlett, olive-skinned, dark of hair and attitude, longs for Caraval, the fabled, magical circus helmed by the possibly evil Master Legend Santos, while blonde, sunny Tella finds comfort in drink and the embraces of various men. A slightly awkward start, with inconsistencies of attitude and setting, rapidly smooths out when they, along with handsome “golden-brown” sailor Julian, flee to Caraval on the eve of Scarlett’s arranged marriage. Tella disappears, and Scarlett must navigate a nighttime world of magic to find her. Caraval delights the senses: beautiful and scary, described in luscious prose, this is a show readers will wish they could enter. Dresses can be purchased for secrets or days of life; clocks can become doors; bridges move: this is an inventive and original circus, laced with an edge of horror. A double love story, one sensual romance and the other sisterly loyalty, anchors the plot, but the real star here is Caraval and its secrets.

Immersive and engaging, despite some flaws, and destined to capture imaginations. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-09525-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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