Dramatic and intense; not for the fainthearted.

SPINDLE AND DAGGER

An unruly, bloodthirsty band of warriors rampages through 12th-century Wales.

They are led by the murderous Owain ap Cadwgan, who attempts to vanquish the equally warlike Norman invaders headed by Gerald of Windsor. The narrator, Owain’s girlfriend, Elen, saves her skin by convincing him that he cannot be harmed because he is protected by her namesake, Saint Elen. Elen is dragged along, mostly against her will, with the war band. She has PTSD from an earlier incident that is revealed in brief flashbacks to have been the death of her baby sister. The story reaches a climax when Owain abducts Nest, his enemy’s wife, and her children. Owain’s aggressive action gets him in trouble with his father, Cadwgan, and Owain is banished to Ireland with Elen in tow. Elen is heartbroken to be separated from Nest’s children, with whom she has formed a close bond. Although at times a little hard to follow, this gritty narrative brings a little-known period in history to life. A historical note gives the context and sources for this story, which is loosely based on the “Chronicle of the Princes,” written some time after the events it relates. Frontmatter includes a chart of the Welsh royal houses, a map of Wales in 1109-1110, and a pronunciation guide, useful given the inclusion of some Welsh words, presented in italics in the text.

Dramatic and intense; not for the fainthearted. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0777-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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

THE BETROTHED

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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Rags to riches with a British twist.

HELLO, CRUEL HEART

Penniless 16-year-old orphan Estella dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer but survives by robbing rich tourists in swinging 1960s London.

After her mother died in a freak accident, Estella moved to the city, bunking down in the Lair, a grimy pad in a bombed-out building, with her chosen family of fellow thieves Horace and Jasper. Although she flunked out of school, Estella has exceptional design talent and is determined to excel in the field. A pair of well-connected trust-fund twins dazzle her with their carefree, affluent lifestyle and groovy circle of friends, and they ultimately exploit her by bartering her fashion skills for accommodation and friendship. Estella soon learns that their glamorous lifestyle is shallow and their friendships, fickle, and she realizes that she will have to find her own way in life. Estella’s complete naïveté in the face of wealth and sophistication is convincingly drawn, and her fashionista ability is fun and engaging; the ending brings a twist that readers may not see coming. The story contains peripheral references to One Hundred and One Dalmatians: Estella has Cruella de Vil black-and-white hair, which she disguises with red dye, and a Cruella alter ego who pops up in her head in moments of crisis and helps her remain true to herself. All characters present White.

Rags to riches with a British twist. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-05776-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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