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RUST IN THE ROOT

Insightful, admirable, and well executed.

A queer Black mage with a simple dream learns she is destined for far greater adventures.

Laura Ann Langston just wants to be an influential baker. However, 1937 America cares little about her sweet ambitions or that she traveled from a country town in Pennsylvania to New York City to make it happen. Several months in, Laura is flat broke with nowhere to call home, leading her to join the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps. Laura is recruited by the formidable agent Skylark, head of the Colored Auxiliary’s regional Floramancy Division. After other areas’ teams go missing, Laura and Skylark set out on an ominous mission to the Ohio Deep Blight, a zone experiencing unnatural phenomena that have disastrous effects on people and animals. There, they use their capacity to control the Dynamism, an energy field that mages pull from. It’s there that Laura also uncovers a conspiracy and gains insight into the depths of her power. Readers are thrust into complex worldbuilding with familiar parallels to our world. Ireland makes advanced concepts accessible, and old photos, articles, and investigative reports bolster her uncanny ability to weave painful, real history into this new world. The bold narrative, told through Laura’s first-person and Skylark’s third-person perspectives, culminates in a captivating ending that eerily echoes many of the issues that presently plague the country, describing the destructive nature of capitalism and the impact its oppression wreaks on a nation.

Insightful, admirable, and well executed. (author's note, photo credits) (Historical fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-303822-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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POWERLESS

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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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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