Originally self-published online, this tale reads more as impassioned fanfiction than a fully realized, judiciously edited...

WHITE STAG

From the Permafrost series , Vol. 1

A scarred survivor must decide if she will be predator, prey, or something more.

Violently orphaned, then tortured, 17-year-old Janneke has spent a century in Permafrost as a goblin thrall. When the Erlking’s death sets off the Hunt for the white stag, Janneke accompanies her current master, Soren. Together, they must stop Lydian—Janneke’s abusive first captor and Soren’s maniacal uncle—prevent a war, decide Janneke’s humanity, and resolve their unusual relationship. Video game–like action sequences, obligatory fae political machinations, unnecessary mystical ordeals, random animal slaughter, and melodramatic brooding ensue. Suffering from chosen one syndrome—prophecies, magical birth, inexplicable uniqueness, and desirability—Janneke survives the Hunt through stubbornness, specialness, and a repeatedly mentioned but superficially discussed childhood of being raised as a male heir (she reserves the feminine form of her name, Janneka, for intimates). Russet-haired, green-eyed Janneke has dark skin and suggested Scandinavian origins, while Soren is white-haired, purple-eyed, and blue-gray skinned. Dazzling descriptions and morbid humor aside, debut author Barbieri eschews original dialogue and subtlety in favor of anachronisms, clichés, blunt moralizing, and insensitive treatment of sexual abuse.

Originally self-published online, this tale reads more as impassioned fanfiction than a fully realized, judiciously edited novel; best for existing fans. (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-14958-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Not everybody lives, and certainly not “happily ever after”—but within all the grisly darkness, Alice’s fierce integrity and...

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THE HAZEL WOOD

From the Hazel Wood series , Vol. 1

A ferocious young woman is drawn into her grandmother’s sinister fairy-tale realm in this pitch-black fantasy debut.

Once upon a time, Althea Proserpine achieved a cult celebrity with Tales from the Hinterland, a slim volume of dark, feminist fairy tales, but Alice has never met her reclusive grandmother nor visited her eponymous estate. Instead, she has spent her entire 17 years on the run from persistent bad luck, relying only on her mother, Ella. Now Althea is dead and Ella has been kidnapped, and the Hinterland seems determined to claim Alice as well. The Hinterland—and the Stories that animate it—appear as simultaneously wondrous and horrific, dreamlike and bloody, lyrical and creepy, exquisitely haunting and casually, brutally cruel. White, petite, and princess-pretty Alice is a difficult heroine to like in her stormy (and frequently profane) narration, larded with pop-culture and children’s-literature references and sprinkled with wry humor; her deceptive fragility conceals a scary toughness, icy hostility, and simmering rage. Despite her tentative friendship (and maybe more) with Ellery Finch, a wealthy biracial, brown-skinned geek for all things Althea Proserpine, any hints of romance are negligible compared to the powerful relationships among women: mothers and daughters, sisters and strangers, spinner and stories; ties of support and exploitation and love and liberation.

Not everybody lives, and certainly not “happily ever after”—but within all the grisly darkness, Alice’s fierce integrity and hard-won self-knowledge shine unquenched. (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-14790-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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A very full mixed bag.

KINGSBANE

From the Empirium Trilogy series , Vol. 2

In the sequel to Furyborn (2018), Rielle and Eliana struggle across time with their powers and prophesied destinies.

Giving readers only brief recaps, this book throws them right into complicated storylines in this large, lovingly detailed fantasy world filled with multiple countries, two different time periods, and hostile angels. Newly ordained Rielle contends with villainous Corien’s interest in her, the weakening gate that holds the angels at bay, and distrust from those who don’t believe her to be the Sun Queen. A thousand years in the future, Eliana chafes under her unwanted destiny and finds her fear of losing herself to her powers (like the Blood Queen) warring with her need to save those close to her. The rigid alternation between time-separated storylines initially feels overstuffed, undermining tension, but once more characters get point-of-view chapters and parallels start paying off, the pace picks up. The multiethnic cast (human versus angelic is the only divide with weight) includes characters of many sexual orientations, and their romantic storylines include love triangles, casual dalliances, steady couples, and couples willing to invite in a third. While many of the physically intimate scenes are loving, some are rougher, including ones that cross lines of clear consent and introduce a level of violence that many young readers will not be ready for. The ending brings heartbreaking twists to prime readers for the trilogy’s conclusion.

A very full mixed bag. (map, list of elements) (Fantasy. 17-adult)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5665-4

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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