Breathtakingly imagines humanity entangled with artificial intelligence.

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THE KINGDOM

Ana is flawless, and she lives in a fantastical place of perfection where her job is to please.

Ana and her Fantasist “sisters” are human/animatronic hybrids. They perform as gorgeous princesses for paying guests in the Kingdom, a kind of futuristic Disneyland. At night they settle in for update installations, their wrists bound with velvet straps to their beds. But hybrid creatures throughout the Kingdom, from butterfly to polar bear, are starting to malfunction. The Fantasist women are acting out of character too. Ana finds herself having strange sensations such as desire and anger…feelings. As Ana evolves, she begins to wonder why her sisters can’t remember what happens behind the scenes when powerful visitors get time alone with the Fantasists. And then—as punishment for a bizarre act of violence—one of her sisters is abruptly replaced. As her discernment and fear grow, so does Ana’s obsession with 19-year-old Taiwanese-American Owen Chen. The textured narrative unfolds through court documents, trial transcripts, and first-person narration from Ana, cleverly conveying her motivations. This sublime blend of The Stepford Wives and Westworld is richly composed and intricately plotted. Ana and most major characters are white; there is some diversity among the Fantasists.

Breathtakingly imagines humanity entangled with artificial intelligence. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-29385-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling.

LEGENDBORN

From the Legendborn series , Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Black whiz kid Bree Matthews battles grief and demonic forces on her college campus.

After her mother dies in an accident, Bree begins a residential program for enterprising teens at her mother’s alma mater and, soon after her arrival, witnesses a magical attack that triggers hidden memories about the evening her mother was killed. Haunted by the fact that their final conversation was an argument, Bree begins a redemptive quest to uncover the connection between her mother’s death and the university’s secret society, the Order of the Round Table, joining their ranks as an initiate and unwittingly stumbling into a centuries-old supernatural war. While competing in the tournament that determines entry to the society, Bree discovers the truth about her heretofore unknown magical abilities, unwinding a complex history that showcases the horrors chattel slavery in the American South perpetuates on the descendants of all involved. Push through clunky expositions and choppy transitions that interrupt the cohesion of the text to discover solid character development that brings forward contemporary, thoughtful engagement with the representation, or lack thereof, of race in canonical Arthurian lore and mythologies. Representation of actualized, strong queer characters is organic, not forced, and so are textual conversations around emotional wellness and intergenerational trauma. Well-crafted allusions to established legends and other literary works are delightful easter eggs.

Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling. (author's note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4160-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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