Not for everyone, but readers who appreciate powerful female friendships and sui generis whimsy will cherish it.

HALF-WITCH

Even a fantasy world strictly conforming to medieval Christian cosmology cannot withstand an unlikely friendship between human and witch in a picaresque middle-grade debut.

After 14 years fleeing across the Holy Roman Empire, Lizbet Lenz has learned to avoid attachments. Yet when her ne’er-do-well father finally lands in jail, she’s ready to beg help from anyone: margraves, witches, God (with whom she has regular, literal, if one-sided conversations). Only Strix, a witch girl crafted from leaves and rubbish, is willing to aid Lizbet’s desperate venture across the impassable Montagnes du Monde; unfortunately, that assistance may be turning Lizbet herself into a witch. In this wildly imaginative alternative Europe, the delicately evolving relationship between kindhearted, pious, fiercely determined, and achingly lonely Lizbet (“fair-skinned, like most northern folk”) and surly, bellicose, but resourceful Strix (“the brown of autumn leaves”) provides a sweet counterpoint to a tale otherwise teeming with selfishness, violence, and cruelty, where even heaven fails before the legions of hell. This last plotline, played at first for mordant (and potentially blasphemous) humor, subtly coalesces all the seemingly unrelated episodes until they suddenly transmogrify into a climax that’s genuinely thrilling, unexpectedly poignant, and oddly reverent. As Lizbet and Strix together realize their individual identities and agency, even greater joint adventures beckon.

Not for everyone, but readers who appreciate powerful female friendships and sui generis whimsy will cherish it. (Fantasy. 10-16)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61873-140-1

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Big Mouth House

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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May well beguile readers with its mix of magic and political intrigue.

SHIELDED

From the Shielded series , Vol. 1

A princess fights to save her kingdom while trying to conceal her magic.

On the eve of her 17th birthday, Princess Jennesara learns of her betrothal to the prince of Turia, an alliance made by her father to secure the neighboring kingdom’s military support in quelling the fighting at his borders. Before she is sent away to safety in Turia, she learns of other worrying developments brewing at home: A burned letter references a search for the mages’ library, illicit magic is being used in skirmishes at the borders, and there is a potential betrayal within her father’s circle of trust. She frets, too, about her own secret magic being discovered, for only her older brother, Ren, is supposed to possess magic. On their way to Turia, Jenna’s party is ambushed and she narrowly escapes. She is forced to fend for herself and find her own way to Turia to discover who betrayed her family and what secrets lie in the rumored mages’ library. Jenna conceals her identity and ingratiates herself with her betrothed’s family as she eludes the threat of a shadowy, sinister foe. Though overflowing with common fantasy tropes and featuring lengthy expository passages, this series opener nevertheless features affable characters and moves at a solid clip that will keep readers entertained. Jenna’s people are fair-haired while Turians are olive-skinned with dark hair.

May well beguile readers with its mix of magic and political intrigue. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11853-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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