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SPECTACLE

From the Spectacle-Zdrok series , Vol. 1

Fans of historical thrillers that invoke the enduring spirit of Jack the Ripper will have fun, and Zdrok leaves things open...

In Zdrok’s debut, a young woman with mysterious powers seeks to unmask a vicious killer terrorizing 19th-century Paris.

Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes about Paris’ unclaimed dead bodies that are on display for public viewing for her column at Le Petit Journal: The more detailed her descriptions, the better. When she sees the body of a young girl who has been brutally slashed, she’s horrified. Placing her hand against the glass barrier, she has a terrifying vision of what seems to be the actual murder. The killer, dubbed “the Dark Artist,” isn’t finished, and the viciousness of the murders grows. Nathalie is intrigued to find out that her Aunt Brigitte, who is in an asylum for acting on her own visions, was a patient of an infamous doctor who offered supernatural powers through blood transfusions. Craving normalcy, Nathalie initially rejects her own powers, but when the Dark Artist slaughters someone very close to her, she resolves to put a stop to his reign of terror. Zdrok explores the universal fascination with death, set among the darker corners of 1887 Paris, and the very idea of the morgue viewings (to which parents brought their children) is chilling. All characters are assumed white. Grisly, plot driven—and very creepy.

Fans of historical thrillers that invoke the enduring spirit of Jack the Ripper will have fun, and Zdrok leaves things open for a sequel. (recommended reading) (Paranormal historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7653-9968-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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REDEMPTION PREP

Only marginally intriguing.

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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THE PRISON HEALER

From the Prison Healer series , Vol. 1

Readable but not remarkable, yet another grimdark political fantasy.

Prison life gets even more punishing in this fantasy series opener.

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan is 10 years into a life sentence at “death prison” Zalindov. She’s succeeded her late father as the titular prison healer, dosing patients with herbs and possessing extensive, modern medical knowledge of bacteria, viruses, and immune systems. Aside from cheerful innocent/MacGuffin Tipp, Kiva befriends few fellow prisoners and even fewer guards, most of whom are harshly abusive. While Naari, a new female guard, and Jaren, a handsome new prisoner, chip away at her frozen facade, Kiva volunteers to undertake an epic Trial by Ordeal on behalf of the Rebel Queen, the newest political prisoner. Under pressure to save her friends, the Rebel Queen, and herself—and losing hope of rescue or release—Kiva faces four elemental magic Trials sans innate talent. In between grueling, gruesome spectacles, Kiva also acts as an epidemiologist, tracking down an illness plaguing the prisoners. The claustrophobic setting—evoking the horrors of a Siberian gulag or Nazi concentration camp—exudes dread and brutality; levity and lightness are minimal. A predictable romance ensues, and generic fantasy clichés abound—royals and rebels, lost heirs, vague magic—hastily concluded with a trite plot twist and setup for a sequel. Most main characters read as White; there is a diversity of skin tones in this fantasy world.

Readable but not remarkable, yet another grimdark political fantasy. (map) (Fantasy. 15-adult)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-43455-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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