Overall, a solid and enjoyable book.

Eda has given up everything to become empress, but making a deal with a god is dangerous, especially one as clever as Tuer.

After the death of the emperor, Eda was made empress of Enduena, much to the chagrin of her (much older) advisers, who continually attempt to undermine her authority. Her first order of business was to bring back religious practices that the previous emperor abolished and reconstruct a temple in Tuer’s name: She made a promise to him that if she failed to do so, she would forfeit the life of her best friend, Niren. Wracked with guilt over gambling with Niren’s life, Eda is hit with another surprise when a new suitor arrives for her, Prince Ileem of Denlahn, her country’s greatest enemy. Could a marriage alliance save her people from all-out war with the Denlahns and give her the support she needs to finish her temple and save Niren? This ambitious book attempts to cover a lot of ground but struggles with pacing and character development. While the world is well built, with clear rituals, rules, and beliefs, the first part drags, readers will likely anticipate the ending, and characters’ behavior at times feels inconsistent. However, the second half of the book sees Eda’s growth, more action, and some exciting magic. Whiteness is situated as the norm; the Denlahns are brown-skinned, and Niren has bronze skin.

Overall, a solid and enjoyable book. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62414-820-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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