Anyone who enjoyed the first title will adore this sequel and be on tenterhooks for the next.

A POISON DARK AND DROWNING

From the Kingdom on Fire series , Vol. 2

Alternative-Victorian magical intrigue, monstrous Lovecraft-ian abominations, and torrid romantic entanglements all intensify in the second of an enthralling fantasy series following A Shadow Bright and Burning (2016).

Henrietta Howel—sick of pretending to be the prophesied “savior” and panicked by her childhood love’s transformation into a shadow of the Seven Ancients—convinces her sorcerer friends to adopt the weapons of the outlawed magicians and even persuades a witch-in-hiding to employ her illegal craft. But none of Henrietta’s secrets or lies proves as devastating as those buried in her own past. Middle books are notoriously tricky, but Cluess executes every beat with panache. The overarching narrative of the sorcerers’ war advances apace, as momentary triumph unravels into complications, setbacks, betrayals, and disasters. The world remains default white and straight, but it contains hints of racial diversity among the magicians along with a gay relationship. The divisions and entanglements among the three branches of magic are further explored, and the deliciously horrific Ancients unfurl ever more grotesque maleficence. Secondary characters introduced mostly to help, thwart, or admire Henrietta begin to develop their own storylines, while Henrietta learns how heavily the price of her impulsiveness and deceit falls upon innocents. And although the romantic polygon centered on Henrietta is superficially resolved, this only ratchets up the underlying tensions.

Anyone who enjoyed the first title will adore this sequel and be on tenterhooks for the next. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-53594-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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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