Sharp characterization and vibrant prose enliven this futuristic tale.


From the Children of the Revolution series , Vol. 1

A teen in a dystopian world seeks vengeance against powerful, murderous officials who control the precious water in this novel.

Sixteen-year-old Merit lives in the Protectorate with her medic father, Eben. The walled area consists of six Regions surrounding the Great Lakes, which now contain much of the devastated world’s fresh water. The governing Galt Corporation, or the Hive, regulates the water and, therefore, the people. Any individual the Hive deems unsuitable is subject to severance, which is a bullet train ride to the land outside the Protectorate known as the Outlier. This includes Merit’s mother, Serafina, who’s been gone a year. When the teen’s Region, Illiana, experiences a longer-than-usual water outage, she and Eben share their stash of bottled water with others. But it’s soon clear that the outage is part of the Hive’s deadly plan for an entire District in Illiana. The Hive wants to use Eben’s skills elsewhere, but that would mean leaving Merit behind for severance or worse. So Eben helps Merit flee with the hopes that they will reunite later. The Hive’s security force, the goliaths, manage to track her as she hides in the wilderness. Merit fortunately encounters a man who can teach her how to be a hunter—how to shoot and kill the goliaths trying to murder her. But taking them out won’t satiate Merit’s thirst for revenge. For that, she heads to Chicago to find “the man who turned off the water” along with the individual who gave the order.

Zienty’s worldbuilding begets a riveting, albeit frightening, future realm. The peril, for one, is unquestionable, as the tale begins in the midst of a four-year drought. Similarly, the totalitarian Hive is a formidable force, with an unsavory Illiana official named Tanner the most discernible representative. The Hive aims for control in myriad ways, such as requiring hormone adjustments to ensure most citizens’ androgyny and outlawing books. The author avoids congesting the narrative with details by hinting at causal events. For example, it’s “Year 80,” with little indication as to which catastrophes prompted the implementation of Year Zero or how they may have affected other countries. Plot progression slows considerably in the latter half, as Merit’s goal of retribution remains the driving force. Nevertheless, the story moves at a steady beat as she faces goliaths and ultimately makes a number of allies. This tale is certainly not lighthearted fare; Merit is unmistakably distraught over her decision to employ lethal means, and more than one likable character meets a sad, violent end. Zienty beautifies the story with sublime writing, including Merit’s time in the wilderness: “Gnarled faces jut from the rock wall, brows caught in perpetual furrow, mouth drawn in eternal frowns, like a cluster of giant men frozen in a spell cast by some sorceress of stone, a sister to the Gorgon Medusa.” Despite a thoroughly gratifying conclusion, there are quite a few things left unresolved or unexplained—perfect fodder for a potential sequel.

Sharp characterization and vibrant prose enliven this futuristic tale. (maps, acknowledgements, about the author)

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73368-810-9

Page Count: 426

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales.



From the Villains series

How did Cinderella’s stepmother come to be so wicked?

She may have been self-focused, but at least she wasn’t always so cruel. Lady Tremaine, mother of two spoiled daughters, is a lonely widow hoping for a bit of happiness. Unfortunately, when Sir Richard appears at her friend’s house party, she’s swept off her feet and fails to heed the frantic warnings of her dedicated, elderly lady’s maid. Had she ever bothered to read the book of fairy tales her late husband purchased years before, she might have recognized the perils of assuming the role of stepmother. Entranced by Sir Richard, she agrees to a hasty marriage and a move to the Many Kingdoms, where he reverts to his true, domineering nature and she and her daughters become virtual prisoners in his home. Although the Odd Sisters—clever, manipulative witches—try to intervene on her behalf, it seems her fate is already written; she becomes as cruel and demented as the story described. However, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and her sister, Nanny, have plans to rescue Lady Tremaine’s daughters as they develop much-needed, rehabilitative insights into the family’s dynamics. Mostly told from the Lady’s shallow, self-centered perspective, this is an entertaining retelling of the Disney “Cinderella” story from a different viewpoint, with references to the rest of the series woven throughout. Characters follow a White default.

For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-02528-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries.


Lady Hollis flees her country after her new husband is killed.

In The Betrothed (2020), Hollis fell in love with Silas, the son of an Isolten family who sought asylum from their cruel king, and chose him over her intended match, King Jameson. Since Silas, his father, his brothers, and her parents have been killed, she decides to travel to Isolte with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Formerly primarily interested in dresses, dancing, and romance, Hollis now proves her mettle. Etan, Silas’ cousin, arrives to escort the family, and he clashes with Hollis from the moment they meet. The society they live in, modeled after medieval Europe, with castles, tournaments, kings, queens, and nobles, generally follows traditional gender roles, but Hollis sometimes breaks through the accepted boundaries. When Etan wants to lead a revolt against his own King Quinten, who is just one of the novel’s major betrayers, Hollis uses her wits to get the evidence needed to convince others that he is guilty of crimes against his own people. She bravely returns to Coroa to confront King Jameson when she finds out that he, too, has carried out unspeakable crimes. Hollis and Etan’s verbal wars are fun, predictably leading to love, but the political intrigue sometimes drags the novel down. Characters default to White.

Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-229166-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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