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From the Spells We Cast series , Vol. 1

With Texas-sized heart and cinematic action, this magical fantasy is a crowd pleaser.

Two magicians facing off in a competition discover the strengths—and dangers—of their powers that are amplified as a result of their attraction.

It’s finally time for Nigel Barrett, a Texan cowboy with elf magic, to participate in the Culling, a tournament in which thousands of 18-year-old magicians—descendants of elves, fae, goblins, nymphs, and sprites—will be whittled down. The best of the best will join the Guild and fight the Depraved, while the rest will be stripped of their powers. When bighearted Nigel encounters Orion Olson during his first trial, he feels a connection, but prickly Ori is not here to make friends. The boys soon realize that being together boosts their powers, but what at first seems like remarkable magic ends up coming with a giant helping of risk. This captivating story with propulsive action features nuanced characterizations of its white leads and racially diverse secondary characters. It sets itself apart from others in the genre by its original worldbuilding, particularly its version of how demons are formed by human hate and cruelty. Fighting them with love-based magic could easily have seemed too twee, but the story works due to its increasingly heavy stakes and surprising turns. The fact that queer love is what is so powerful makes this story especially affirming and noteworthy. The ending enticingly sets readers up for a sequel.

With Texas-sized heart and cinematic action, this magical fantasy is a crowd pleaser. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781368089234

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Melissa de la Cruz Studio

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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