Impressive intrigues and cleverly exploited character flaws make for an exciting read.



From the Nissera Chronicles series , Vol. 2

Generations after Kingdom of Ash and Briars (2016), a new elicromancer threat jeopardizes Nissera.

Unlike most of the Calgoran royals and despite attending the elicromancer academy (founded after Bristal’s time, when people once again braved the Water to gain power), Valory shows no signs of magical talent. A tragedy results in Valory touching the Water without the approval of the bureaucratic governing body, the Conclave, and the subsequent ripples shake the foundations of her society—and leave her looking very guilty. Meanwhile, a secretive, mask-wearing sect called the Summoners are on the move with the goal of resurrecting the Lord of Elicromancers, a terror long forgotten by the time of the Elicrin War. Although returning evil overlords and the young hero destined to oppose are by no means rare in fantasy, West keeps things fresh through both the thematic justifications (the consequences of forgetting history, especially upholding traditions without understanding why) and complex characterization for good and evil characters alike in the tangled plots, cat-and-mouse games, deceptions, and betrayals. Tangential storylines reference “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid,” and, while the climax resolves the central crisis, signs point to future fairy-tale–inspired friction. While Valory and most characters are white, a couple of characters from faraway Erdem are described as having russet skin and are possibly coded Asian Indian.

Impressive intrigues and cleverly exploited character flaws make for an exciting read. (map, family tree) (Fantasy. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3986-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.


From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.


From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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