Thoroughly researched historical details and bright if naïve protagonists conjure a winning period adventure.



Turn-of-the-last-century socialites discover the bloody secrets of their Old World family in this lush historical fantasy.

Cousins Dacia Vreeholt and Louisa Neulander, raised in Gilded Age New York, are sent in 1897 to Romania to reconnect with their mothers' aristocratic clan. Once in Bucharest, Lou and Dacia (who arrives marked by a minor scandal involving a London playboy) quickly realize their reclusive relations, the Florescus, socialize only with the Dracula family—descendants of the infamous Vlad the Impaler. Meanwhile, the cousins' intimidating grandmother keeps wondering aloud if each is a "Wing," "Claw," or "Smoke" and pushing Dacia to accept invitations from Dracula scion Prince Mihai. As Mihai begins to pursue Dacia, her London and American suitors arrive in Romania to warn the cousins about the Florescus' supernatural connection to the Draculas, who seek to reclaim the Romanian throne. In absorbing alternating journal entries and letters, Dacia grows ever more frightened and cautious while Lou’s interest in her family's fascinating secrets deepens. George captures the exquisite beauty of 1890s Romania—city town houses and sprawling country estates, opera halls, artisanal shops, folk dresses, and the stunning "forested slopes of the Carpathians"—while also creating an increasingly foreboding atmosphere for Dacia’s and Lou's life-changing revelations.

Thoroughly researched historical details and bright if naïve protagonists conjure a winning period adventure. (author's note) (Historical fiction/paranormal fantasy. 12-17)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61963-431-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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A sparkling new fantasy dulled by an unconvincing romance.


From the Bone Grace series , Vol. 1

In a world where sirens must kill their soul mates for honor, one wants to do the exact opposite.

Bone Criers—Ferriers among the Leurress—guide the dead to their afterlives in Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’ Underworld, thus protecting mortals from their wrath. But to become a Ferrier, one must endure the rite of passage and sacrifice their amouré—one true love—to the gods. Ailesse, daughter of the Leurress’ matriarch, plans to kill her amouré immediately and avoid falling in love altogether. On the night she plays the bone flute to summon him, she meets Bastien—a boy thirsting for vengeance after witnessing his father’s death by a Bone Crier. After she is abducted by Bastien and his friends, her friend Sabine promises to rescue Ailesse, even if it means sacrificing animals and disobeying Leurress elders. Chapters alternate points of view, offering insight into the individual protagonists, but ultimately the characters are not well developed and are bound to the tropes Purdie (Frozen Reign, 2018, etc.) assigns them: Ailesse, an heiress who longs to please her obviously deceitful mother; Bastien, the predictable enemy-turned–love interest; and Sabine, the best friend who disappoints despite every opportunity to shine. The sudden appearance of a French dauphin during a messy climax sets readers up for another love triangle (the first involving Ailesse, Bastien, and his friend Jules). The cast is mostly white.

A sparkling new fantasy dulled by an unconvincing romance. (map) (Fantasy. 12-17)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-279877-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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