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

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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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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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