An ambitious, but unevenly executed, gay coming-of-age story draped in high fantasy.

THE DUBIOUS GIFT OF DRAGON BLOOD

A prophecy reveals the impending death of one of the Five Dragons of the Realm of Fire.

Sixteen-year-old Crispin Haugen is chosen to be the Dragon Groom who will mate with the Dragon Queen in order to maintain the Five. Crispin, who’s gay, is stunned to learn about his hidden dragon heritage and understandably unenthused about fulfilling his role. He already has enough on his plate, from being outed to his classmates to suffering the humiliation of having a crush publicly revealed. Upon arriving at the Realm of Fire, Crispin finds that his presence isn’t entirely welcome: Though the People hail Crispin’s arrival as a blessing, the pious Prime Magistrate refuses to acknowledge the prophecy and demands that Crispin leave. Further complicating matters is the growing attraction between Crispin and the Prime Magistrate’s handsome and devout pupil Davix. The recurring emphasis on personal agency and consent is a pleasant surprise, especially as it is applied to both intimate relationships and the chosen-one trope. Detailed worldbuilding and exposition slow down the narrative, but the action picks up in the final third of the book. Same-sex relationships are the norm in the Realm of Fire, and sexuality is understood to be fluid. Crispin is White and Filipino; all humans in the Realm of Fire have brown skin and black hair.

An ambitious, but unevenly executed, gay coming-of-age story draped in high fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63555-725-1

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell...

SIX OF CROWS

Adolescent criminals seek the haul of a lifetime in a fantasyland at the beginning of its industrial age.

The dangerous city of Ketterdam is governed by the Merchant Council, but in reality, large sectors of the city are given over to gangs who run the gambling dens and brothels. The underworld's rising star is 17-year-old Kaz Brekker, known as Dirtyhands for his brutal amorality. Kaz walks with chronic pain from an old injury, but that doesn't stop him from utterly destroying any rivals. When a councilman offers him an unimaginable reward to rescue a kidnapped foreign chemist—30 million kruge!—Kaz knows just the team he needs to assemble. There's Inej, an itinerant acrobat captured by slavers and sold to a brothel, now a spy for Kaz; the Grisha Nina, with the magical ability to calm and heal; Matthias the zealot, hunter of Grishas and caught in a hopeless spiral of love and vengeance with Nina; Wylan, the privileged boy with an engineer's skills; and Jesper, a sharpshooter who keeps flirting with Wylan. Bardugo broadens the universe she created in the Grisha Trilogy, sending her protagonists around countries that resemble post-Renaissance northern Europe, where technology develops in concert with the magic that's both coveted and despised. It’s a highly successful venture, leaving enough open questions to cause readers to eagerly await Volume 2.

Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell into a family . (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-212-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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