Lust and violence make for a fast and entertaining read, but this could have been so much more.

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EMBERS & ECHOES

Frenzied action and steamy romance aren't enough to ignite this overwrought sequel to Wildefire (2011).

After a spectacular breakup that leaves her trickster ex half-buried in solid rock (and neatly recaps the previous book), high school sophomore and reincarnated volcano goddess Ashline heads off to Miami, following a vision of her missing younger sister. There, she teams up with an Aztec night god and a Roman dawn goddess to thwart a villainous millionaire and her sadistic henchgods, rescue her other sister from a netherworldly dimension, and keep the loves and lies of her past incarnations from leaking into this one. But ignore the complicated plot; the real meat of the story lies in the constant chases, fights, (chaste) lusting and lots and lots of explosions. The choppy style propels the pace, barely skirting self-parody with strained metaphors and bathetic blank verse. Despite their varied powers, appropriated from diverse mythologies, all these gods are pretty much indistinguishable; this renders Ash's new insta-crush less surprising and would lessen the interest of the high body count but for the creatively gruesome deaths they suffer. The only vivid personality is Ash herself; unfortunately, while it is rare (and rather refreshing) in YA to find such a reckless, arrogant, bad-tempered and violent female protagonist, Ash's shrugging indifference to these traits, despite their disastrous consequences, makes it hard to care about her future…even with the blatant sequel-baiting cliffhanger.

Lust and violence make for a fast and entertaining read, but this could have been so much more. (Urban fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-5030-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling.

LEGENDBORN

From the Legendborn series , Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Black whiz kid Bree Matthews battles grief and demonic forces on her college campus.

After her mother dies in an accident, Bree begins a residential program for enterprising teens at her mother’s alma mater and, soon after her arrival, witnesses a magical attack that triggers hidden memories about the evening her mother was killed. Haunted by the fact that their final conversation was an argument, Bree begins a redemptive quest to uncover the connection between her mother’s death and the university’s secret society, the Order of the Round Table, joining their ranks as an initiate and unwittingly stumbling into a centuries-old supernatural war. While competing in the tournament that determines entry to the society, Bree discovers the truth about her heretofore unknown magical abilities, unwinding a complex history that showcases the horrors chattel slavery in the American South perpetuates on the descendants of all involved. Push through clunky expositions and choppy transitions that interrupt the cohesion of the text to discover solid character development that brings forward contemporary, thoughtful engagement with the representation, or lack thereof, of race in canonical Arthurian lore and mythologies. Representation of actualized, strong queer characters is organic, not forced, and so are textual conversations around emotional wellness and intergenerational trauma. Well-crafted allusions to established legends and other literary works are delightful easter eggs.

Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling. (author's note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4160-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Heart-pounding.

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CEMETERY BOYS

A gay, transgender brujo with burgeoning powers seeks answers about his cousin’s death.

Sixteen-year-old Yadriel also wishes for acknowledgement from his community but unexpectedly finds himself entangled in the unresolved wishes of a strong-willed, good-looking spirit. He descends from a long line of brujx who have been granted magic power by Lady Death to heal the living and to guide spirits into the afterlife. Although he’s grown up surrounded by a close-knit community, Yadriel feels alone, excluded indefinitely from a sacred rite of passage because he is transgender. When he senses that his cousin Miguel has died suddenly but the family can’t locate him, Yadriel sees an opportunity to prove to everyone he’s a true brujo by solving the mystery and releasing his cousin’s lost spirit. His plan quickly falls apart, as he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian Diaz, a boy with unfinished business who died the same day as Miguel. Both the romance and mystery burn slow and hot until the climax. Stakes begin high, and the intensity only increases with a looming deadline and a constant risk that Julian might lose himself, turning maligno. The cast of characters represents a diversity of Latinx identities sharing a community in East Los Angeles. Julian is Colombian while Yadriel is Cuban and Mexican. Their romance provides joyful, ground-breaking representation for gay, transgender boys.

Heart-pounding. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25046-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Swoon Reads/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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