Though flawed, this first volume in a new trilogy has much to offer genre enthusiasts.

BELOW

From the Broken Sky Chronicles series , Vol. 1

Hokk scavenges the dead bodies falling from the sky, but when he finds one alive, everything changes.

An unusual twist on the post-apocalyptic theme finds humanity split into two races. Above, on the floating islands, dark-skinned humans live separated by class and surrounded by mythology. Below, the pale-skinned people crowd into the burned-out cities or try to survive in the vast wastelands. Other than the occasional dead body or trinket dropped from above, the two civilizations have no contact. That’s until Hokk, serving out a sentence of exile in the wastelands, finds Elia, who has miraculously survived her plummet from her island home. Charged with the safekeeping of a mysterious box, Elia is desperate to return to her island. Hokk has other plans. The third-person narration switches focus between the two, giving readers insight into their thoughts and motivations. Hokk’s duplicity and amorality make him an unsympathetic hero. Elia is similarly hampered by her frustrating naiveté. Worldbuilding inconsistencies abound. Below, grasses grow without sunlight, and the agrarian civilization Above exists without rain; a telescope is proclaimed “a miracle” in a society with working elevators. Still, although it meanders at times, the novel eventually finds its way to a satisfying conclusion and setup for Volume 2.

Though flawed, this first volume in a new trilogy has much to offer genre enthusiasts. (Post-apocalyptic adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68162-601-7

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Turner

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Will both entertain and encourage reflection.

CINDERELLA IS DEAD

In Mersailles, “Cinderella” is more than just a fairy tale: It’s the basis for a harsh monarch’s throttlehold on his kingdom.

Sophia is turning 16, the age at which young women must attend King Manford’s annual ball, at which they are scrutinized by and married off to male attendees. Any young woman who has not been claimed after her third ball is destined to spend the rest of her days engaged in hard labor. But being chosen can be its own curse in a society where domestic violence is common. Sophia is a beautiful Black girl in love with dark-haired Erin, one of her best friends. While racial diversity is a natural part of this world, the same acceptance does not exist for those who defy rigid gender norms: Anything other than heterosexual desire is strictly forbidden, and while Sophia wishes to escape as a couple, Erin is too fearful. After fleeing the ball, Sophia stumbles across Cinderella’s mausoleum, hidden in the woods. There she meets rebellious Constance, an attractive young red-haired woman with a very personal motivation for sabotaging the monarchy. As the two grew closer—and sparks fly—they discover secrets that could end Manford’s cruel reign. This promising debut deals with themes around rebellion and empowerment as well as the toll that rejecting the status quo can take on relationships. The atmospheric setting is a particular strength, and the twists and turns will keep readers in suspense.

Will both entertain and encourage reflection. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0387-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

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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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