The unexpected cliffhanger at the end of this Sapphic "Sleeping Beauty" will leave readers impatient for a sequel.


An outcast and a spunky princess dream of revolutionizing their world even as one of them approaches her final, cursed days.

Long ago, the War of the Fae annihilated the Vila and their homeland, Malterre, but no one who survived the war—the humans of Briar and the light Fae of Etheria—seems to mind. Everyone knows that the Vila were nothing more than evil beasts, and that includes Alyce, the half-Vila forced to serve as Briar's Dark Grace. The light Fae blessed Briar's Graces with beauty and magical, golden blood, which they use to craft potions for paying customers throughout the land. As the Dark Grace, green-blooded Alyce bleeds life into mild curses that Briar's citizens use against one another. Alyce's hexes are nothing compared to the generational curse that one powerful Vila placed on the Briar Queen: to bear only girls, who must find their true loves before their 21st birthdays or die. The curse has already killed the current Briar Queen's two eldest daughters, locking the crown in a race against time to find a suitor for 20-year-old Princess Aurora. As Alyce soon discovers, after a chance meeting with the princess, Aurora doesn't want to marry a prince. Instead, she plans to break the curse, and who better to help her than the last Vila alive? Alyce and Aurora draw closer to one another, unable to articulate their budding romantic feelings, and that angst fuels much of the novel's drama. The anti-Vila racism Alyce endures grows darker and more deadly as the novel progresses, and her obliviousness to an obvious betrayal plot may frustrate readers expecting a heroine with a better eye for danger. Finally, a sudden series of terrible twists of fate—some unresolved, others resolved all too quickly—forces readers to contend with a shocking and abrupt cliffhanger ending.

The unexpected cliffhanger at the end of this Sapphic "Sleeping Beauty" will leave readers impatient for a sequel.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984818-65-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A gripping revenge story with enough twists to avoid becoming formulaic.


To get revenge for her family’s murder seven years ago, Lore must reenter a deadly contest from her past.

Leaving the conflict of gods and their hunters behind, Lore thought she had forged a new life. However, the Agon has begun again and brought with it an injured Athena, who promises her revenge on the one who ordered her family killed—in exchange for an oath binding their fates together. Lore must hunt down the god once known as Aristos Kadmou, with the catch that she only has eight days. Also, failure means the deaths of both Lore and Athena. Depictions of graphic violence and discussions of sexual assault are frequent, creating a tale as violent and unforgiving as its source material, albeit narrated through a feminist lens. Much like the heroes of ancient epics, Lore is a morally ambiguous but ultimately likable character, struggling to eliminate the monsters of her world while not falling into the brutality of her youth. She is contrasted with the idealistic Castor, her childhood friend and love interest, with whom she has plenty of chemistry. Bracken builds a rich world around a skeleton of ancient Greek mythology that is perfect to read on a dull weekend and sure to delight readers. Most main characters are cued as White; there are two men of color, both gay.

A gripping revenge story with enough twists to avoid becoming formulaic. (cast of characters) (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7820-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Weird and haunting and excellent.

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The much-anticipated second novel from the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004).

The narrator of this novel answers to the name “Piranesi” even though he suspects that it's not his name. This name was chosen for him by the Other, the only living person Piranesi has encountered during his extensive explorations of the House. Readers who recognize Piranesi as the name of an Italian artist known for his etchings of Roman ruins and imaginary prisons might recognize this as a cruel joke that the Other enjoys at the expense of the novel’s protagonist. It is that, but the name is also a helpful clue for readers trying to situate themselves in the world Clarke has created. The character known as Piranesi lives within a Classical structure of endless, inescapable halls occasionally inundated by the sea. These halls are inhabited by statues that seem to be allegories—a woman carrying a beehive; a dog-fox teaching two squirrels and two satyrs; two children laughing, one of them carrying a flute—but the meaning of these images is opaque. Piranesi is happy to let the statues simply be. With her second novel, Clarke invokes tropes that have fueled a century of surrealist and fantasy fiction as well as movies, television series, and even video games. At the foundation of this story is an idea at least as old as Chaucer: Our world was once filled with magic, but the magic has drained away. Clarke imagines where all that magic goes when it leaves our world and what it would be like to be trapped in that place. Piranesi is a naif, and there’s much that readers understand before he does. But readers who accompany him as he learns to understand himself will see magic returning to our world.

Weird and haunting and excellent.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63557-563-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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