A somewhat formulaic but ultimately satisfying military fantasy.


In Allen’s YA fantasy series starter, a teenage boy whose village is destroyed by raiders must find his way to safety and then train with a legendary order of knights.

Fifteen-year-old Fordain Abendroth and his twin brother, Amon, are days short of officially coming of age when their village is attacked by soldiers of the Primus Emprius, a faction that would plunge the Republic of Emprius into civil war. Their parents are killed and their village burned to the ground; Amon is captured, and Fordain escapes with only his horse, Solus, and a mysterious amulet he’s worn for his entire boyhood. He pursues the rebel soldiers, vowing to rescue Amon. Instead, he manages to free Ingred de Haas, a girl his age who was taken prisoner while journeying from the land of the reptilian humanoid Draga. Fordain and Ingred set out for Aralia, a renowned island kingdom whose knights fight for just causes. Along the way, the pair are joined by the Draga-raised woodsman Elagor Vos and orphaned farm boy Evander Carro; soon, they’re all taken under the wing of Lord Maritius, a general from Aralia. The four companions are trained as knights, but will they be ready when the time comes to fight? Allen writes in the third person, primarily from Fordain’s perspective but occasionally from those of his companions. This touch of omniscience takes away some narrative urgency, as does Fordain’s philosophical attitude toward misfortune; he spares barely a thought for his dead parents, and the search for his brother feels more like a plot device than a driving motivation. The setting is refreshingly suggestive of several historical Earth cultures—ancient Rome, heraldic England, and possibly Dutch South Africa—but its rendering feels haphazard, mingling generic fantasy with Cockney English and incongruous uses of the words ere, prithee, doest, and bade (speciously rendered as bad). Allen shows a deft hand at characterization and description, effectively investing readers in the land, its peoples, and their fate. Although the story is slow to build and the conflict proves relatively small-scale, it remains engaging throughout.

A somewhat formulaic but ultimately satisfying military fantasy.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2022

ISBN: 9781956619096

Page Count: 347

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2023

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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

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