Here’s hoping they’ll be rewarded with more depth and color in the sequels to come.

ALLIES & ASSASSINS

From the Allies & Assassins series , Vol. 1

Following the murder of his brother, Prince Anders, Jared must not only assume the throne as ruler of all Archenfield, but take on the role of investigator into the crime.

As he’s only 16, it is lucky for Jared that he has the Council of The Twelve to guide him in his decisions. Unfortunately, he quickly learns that not all is as it seems in the kingdom. Lust for power, unrequited love and personal vendettas make it difficult for Jared to know whom to trust. So when Asta Peck, the Physician’s niece and apprentice, begins her own inquiry, he is relieved to find that he is not the only one seeking the truth. Their investigation is complicated by the death of the prince’s consort and her unborn child and the attempted murder of the Falconer. It is clear that the killer is ruthless, but his or her motivation and identity remain hidden. While the mystery is suspenseful, a lack of sensory detail keeps the fantastic setting vague, despite ornate, medieval-esque trappings. The over-large cast is often unwieldy, keeping the individual characters undefined and forcing readers to the Archenfield family tree and list of officers at the front. Still, there’s a lot going on, and readers caught up in the plot will probably want to find out what happens next.

Here’s hoping they’ll be rewarded with more depth and color in the sequels to come. (Adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-25393-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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