An unpolished read.

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GOBLIN KING

From the Permafrost series , Vol. 2

A young woman goes to Hel and back to stop Ragnarök in this sequel to White Stag (2019).

Having survived the Hunt, goblin Soren rules as Erlking while once-human Janneke grapples with her role as the stag. Once master and servant, now lovers, both are struggling to take on their new responsibilities and overcome their many, many traumas. Raised as a male heir in a vaguely Viking-ish era and held as a Permafrost realm prisoner for 100 years, dark-skinned, green-eyed Janneke is as lethal as her former captors, the goblins, but capable of emotion. Now an untrained magic-user and unwilling recipient of apocalyptic visions, Janneke is also haunted by her abuser, Lydian…“literally,” as the characters would (and repeatedly, gratingly) say. Attempting to use—then exorcise—the liminal Lydian, Janneke and a small circle of trusted goblins dive deep into the Norse underworld. Unwaveringly, perhaps unbelievably, supportive Soren is pale and bluish-skinned, white-haired, and lilac-eyed—for goblins, read prettified Celtic elves or Scandinavian trolls, per the novel’s loose basis on and reinterpretation of traditional mythology. The setting, tone, and language are inconsistent and unclear, with the pre-industrial trappings repeatedly clashing with the innumerable, jarringly modern turns of phrase and copious profanities. Barbieri prominently features issues of abuse, disability, eating disorders, self-harm, and gender, but the quality of the writing does not support sensitive and nuanced exploration of these subjects.

An unpolished read. (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-24760-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

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MEXICAN GOTHIC

Moreno-Garcia offers a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, set in 1950s Mexico.

Inquisitive 22-year-old socialite and anthropology enthusiast Noemí Taboada adores beautiful clothes and nights on the town in Mexico City with a bevy of handsome suitors, but her carefree existence is cut short when her father shows her a disturbing letter from her cousin Catalina, who recently married fair-haired and blue-eyed Virgil Doyle, who comes from a prominent English mining family that built their now-dwindling fortune on the backs of Indigenous laborers. Catalina lives in High Place, the Doyle family’s crumbling mansion near the former mining town of El Triunfo. In the letter, Catalina begs for Noemí’s help, claiming that she is “bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin,” and that High Place is “sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment.” Upon Noemí’s arrival at High Place, she’s struck by the Doyle family’s cool reception of her and their unabashed racism. She's alarmed by the once-vibrant Catalina’s listless state and by the enigmatic Virgil and his ancient, leering father, Howard. Nightmares, hallucinations, and phantasmagoric dreams of golden dust and fleshy bodies plague Noemí, and it becomes apparent that the Doyles haven’t left their blood-soaked legacy behind. Luckily, the brave Noemí is no delicate flower, and she’ll need all her wits about her for the battle ahead. Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.

Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-62078-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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