Despite possessing every cliché in the genre, an elegantly addictive read.



From the Kingdom on Fire series , Vol. 1

The only thing more terrifying than being proclaimed the chosen one is secretly knowing you aren’t.

Of the three orders of magic practiced in this alternative Victorian Britain, only sorcery is legal—and it’s exclusively male. Fearing execution for witchcraft, 16-year-old Henrietta Howel has worked to hide her fiery powers, so she’s astonished to be hailed as the fulfillment of prophecy, the first female sorcerer in centuries. Whisked off to London, surrounded by luxury (and handsome young sorcerers-in-training), Henrietta fights to master magic and protect her dearest childhood friend, knowing that she’ll forfeit everything should her secrets be revealed. Every plot beat and character note here is utterly familiar; even the “subverted” tropes are upended in predictable ways. Henrietta is a stereotypical girl fantasy protagonist: uniquely gifted, haunted by childhood abuse, sympathetic to outcasts, “unfeminine” in her interests, believing herself unlovable even while adored by everyone except spiteful (and misogynistic) villains....Still, originality isn’t the only literary virtue, and Cluess deploys every timeworn device with stylish aplomb. Her gaslit world besieged by Lovecraft-ian horrors possesses vivid life, and if Henrietta’s hunky harem is populated by stock characters, their friendship still rings true. Despite frequent allusions to Henrietta’s “dark complexion” from her Welsh heritage, the characters are clearly all white, save the black, outlaw magician she befriends; even with the looming romantic polygon, hints abound that this world isn’t entirely heterosexual.

Despite possessing every cliché in the genre, an elegantly addictive read. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53590-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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