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A beautiful, engaging fantasy.

A young woman must use her musical talents to uncover lost memories and Celestial secrets to save the Six Realms.

With her loving uncle away traveling, orphaned Xue joined an entertainment house to hone her musical talents in playing the qín. Now, following years of service and learning, the 17-year-old has become an apprentice, and her uncle gifts her a new qín. Shortly after, he’s killed by bandits, leaving her lonelier than ever. Throwing herself into her music, Xue captures the attention of handsome young nobleman Meng Jinglang, who offers to pay off her indenture contract in return for her playing music at his manor for one year. The offer grows more enticing when he reveals that he knew her uncle and needs her help completing an unfinished task of his. But as she spends time with Jinglang at Meng Manor, she uncovers many secrets. It turns out that Jinglang is the Celestial Realm’s Duke of Dreams, and that the Six Realms are on the verge of ruin. Together, they must figure out the answers, which are somehow connected to her qín. Although this fantastical hero’s journey has a slow start, it’s full of magic, mystery, music, poetry, and intrigue. The detailed and impressive worldbuilding incorporates Chinese culture, food, lore, and poetry. A breakdown of the structure and order of the Six Realms, an author’s note, and a glossary of Chinese characters, pronunciation, and definitions offer helpful context and background.

A beautiful, engaging fantasy. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9781250871619

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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