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POWERLESS

A strong superhero yarn for fans of the X-Men and Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows.

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A 16-year-old from a family of superpowered people finds herself on the outs when she fails to develop powers of her own in Pretty’s YA SF novel.

Hanna Super is an anomaly in her appropriately named family. Her deceased mother, two sisters, and two brothers all developed superpowers by the time they were 16, her current age. Her powerlessness means she is left out of, among other things, her family’s vigilante activities. Her older sister, Maria, can control fire. Her brother Toomas has superstrength, and her other brother, Maksim, has the ability to transfer pain from his own (usually self-inflicted) injuries to someone else. Finally, her youngest sister, Marleen, can dissolve anything she touches. Struggling to find her place, Hanna devotes her time to studying the gene that causes the development of powers, discovered by her wealthy scientist father, Artem Super—whose approval she strongly desires. After a lab accident, however, Hanna is cast out of her father’s home. Alone for the first time, she stumbles into an alliance with the mysterious Brotherhood, the group positioned as Artem’s antagonistic rival. The author effectively builds the story’s world (it’s set in an alternate version of Sudovia, an independent former member nation of the Soviet Union) through the natural-feeling incorporation of details via conversations or flashbacks. One particularly clever instance occurs in a flashback to Hanna and Maria’s childhood games involving maps of Kakslinna: (“Maria’s favorite map was the most recent one, where she’d drawn little, red Xs for where to find the best mini pancakes, cinnamon pastries, and cherry pies”); Pretty uses the scene not only to provide depth to the sisters’ relationship, but also to unobtrusively convey details about the history and geography of the setting. Ultimately, the author delivers an exciting superhero story with series potential.

A strong superhero yarn for fans of the X-Men and Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows.

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

ISBN: 9780645712315

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Pandora Books

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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POWERLESS

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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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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