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STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD

A bloodless retelling of the Bluebeard tale finds its setting in antebellum Mississippi.

When her father dies, 17-year-old Sophia is taken in by her godfather, the mysterious Bernard de Cressac. Sophie soon finds out that not only is her guardian a widower, but there have been three wives before the last. Wyndriven Abbey had been brought over, stone by stone, from France and rebuilt and added to, and it has a full complement of British, Chinese and French servants and plantation slaves. Sophie is first charmed, then puzzled, then frightened by Monsieur Bernard, who is mercurial in his moods and unyielding in his demands. Sophie is plucky and occasionally wise, but she also has a foil and a hope in the local minister, and she finds strength in prayer.  Nickerson describes clothing, architecture, woods and gardens in lovely detail, but even though Sophie tells her tale in the first person, there is no depth or nuance. Indeed, for a story with murders, attempted rape and slave-beating, no sense of horror or fear comes off the page, nor does any sort of erotic tension or longing. The language is modern for so old a story, although the slaves and free blacks take their dialogue directly from Joel Chandler’s Uncle Remus: “Laws-a-mercy yes. I loves company! Have a blessed day.” The end is both predictable and partakes of a distressing white-savior mentality.

Skip it. (Historical fantasy/fairy tale. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-97598-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

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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An intimate portrait of female friendship laced with literal and metaphorical magic.

WHEN WE WERE MAGIC

Getting through high school requires more than a little bit of magic.

On prom night, when Alexis accidentally kills Josh Harper, she panics and summons her five best friends—Paulie, Roya, Iris, Marcelina, and Maryam—for help. Alexis knows she can rely on them, not only because of their unshakeable friendship, but because of what they have in common: the ability to do magic. Attempting to make things right, the girls cast a spell but are left with a disconnected collection of Josh’s body parts, including a cold, glassy version of his heart. They divide them up and agree to dispose of what is left of Josh, piece by piece. Alexis insists on witnessing each body-part-releasing ceremony, in the process exploring her bonds with her friends—and, in one case, feelings that go far beyond friendship. But as their relationships strengthen, the spell takes its toll: Every time they lose a body part, the girls lose something too, forcing them to rethink how they define themselves and each other. This work of speculative fiction is a profoundly thoughtful exploration of female friendship, love, growth, and identity. The fully realized characters are diverse in ethnicity, sexuality, and gender identity. While the final two-thirds of the book are beautifully paced, balancing introspection and character development with plot, the first third at times feels weighed down by explanation and backstory.

An intimate portrait of female friendship laced with literal and metaphorical magic. (Speculative fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3287-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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