Appealing siblings fortify a time-bending tale that offers plenty of drama.

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TIME BENDERS AND THE TWO PROMISES

Time travelers revisit the past to help a friend and fix a mistake in this YA SF sequel.

Teenager Joe Fitzgerald, after finding documents for a prospective time-traveling machine, constructed a prototype with his older brother, Ken, and adult scientist pal, Mr. Brewster. Joe, Ken, and their sisters, Deb and Kim, traveled through time to undo their parents’ plane crash deaths. But now back in the present day (the 1970s), they realize they’ve changed the circumstances but haven’t saved their mother and father. Joe tries again on his own but fails; in fact, his actions have seemingly resulted in their parents’ separating prior to their deaths. Kim is upset and Ken and Deb are understandably irate with Joe. Ken decrees that his brother’s time-traveling days are over. But Deb has a change of heart after hearing Mr. Brewster’s story of losing his unborn child and, later, his wife, Abby. Deb agrees to Joe’s simple time-traveling plan to give the Brewsters more days together, and Ken, away at Harvard, won’t even need to know about it. Deb, Joe, Kim, and Deb’s boyfriend, Ryan, complete their journey with relative success. So Deb has an idea to go back and intercept Joe on his solo trip; it won’t save their parents but hopefully it will prevent their separation. But this time, there’s potential danger. On his last trip, Joe experienced severe nausea and dizziness, a condition that he and Mr. Brewster now believe is from two versions of the teen sharing the same time and space. If the universe is trying to “erase” the second version of Joe, Deb and Ryan will have little time to finish their mission.

Yanni’s second installment is as uncomplicated as the series opener, Time Benders: The Machine (2018). Characters simply accept certain aspects of time travel so that they don’t require much in the way of explanation. For example, the players know that traveling to the past necessitates as few changes and interactions as possible. Nevertheless, the story is still predominantly dialogue, including a debate over Joe’s solo excursion; discussion on his adverse side effects; and plans for future time travel—without Ken’s knowledge, of course. This occasionally leads to repetition, particularly about Joe’s failed trip, which the Fitzgeralds frequently deliberate or recount to others. Regardless, the well-established characters evolve, as Ken graduates from a Connecticut boarding school and attends Harvard; Deb must decide on a college; and Joe grows closer to schoolmate Becky. At the same time, the author keeps the series fresh by shifting character focus in the sequel: Deb and Joe essentially take over as leads, with more of a spotlight on Ryan, while Ken and Kim step into supporting roles. Meanwhile, the author’s incorporation of historical events is smart and typically accurate, such as Joe utilizing the computer language COBOL and designing a “personal computer” before it becomes a household item. But there are several pop-culture anachronisms that the author’s concluding notes clarify as movies, etc., that have been “adapted for use in the story.” Though the narrative manages to find a resolution by the end, a cliffhanger sets the stage for the third volume with the possibility of yet another character taking the limelight.

Appealing siblings fortify a time-bending tale that offers plenty of drama.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72834-574-1

Page Count: 270

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2020

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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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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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