Successfully evokes the sightless, slow-moving, claustrophobic, ever-present darkness of dystopian coal mines—but is that a...

ASHES OF TWILIGHT

From the Ashes of Twilight series , Vol. 1

Dystopian future plus steampunk plus romance: All these trendy ingredients are here plopped together in a plodding muddle.

Wren is a shiner, a coal miner whose family has lived in the bowels of the Earth for generations. When a comet threatened the world back in 1878, the royals moved into a city domed in glass, bringing soldiers, servants and a workforce to keep their protected enclave powered. Two centuries have passed, and the world outside is still wreathed in flame—or so Wren has always been taught. But others in her world are convinced there’s a better life. Wren, during a forbidden outing in the domed city above the mines, finds the dying, horribly burned body of her friend Alex, the words “the sky is blue,” on his lips. Now Wren’s on the run from the authorities, hiding away with a dreamy, blue-eyed boy. There’s another boy, of course, but Wren doesn’t want this one, who’s at least partly responsible for the ever-present threat of sexual violence in her world. Wren can save the blue-eyed boy or protect her village; seek the blue sky or find safety in darkness. Maybe she can snuggle in a freezing cave for a long time while she thinks about it.

Successfully evokes the sightless, slow-moving, claustrophobic, ever-present darkness of dystopian coal mines—but is that a victory in a romantic adventure? (Steampunk. 14-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-64178-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

I AM NOT STARFIRE

Sixteen-year-old Mandy considers herself the anti-Starfire: Unlike her scantily clad superhero mother, she doesn’t have superpowers, can’t fly, and doesn’t even own a bathing suit.

Mandy dyes her hair and dresses in all black to further call out how different they are. Mandy’s best friend, Lincoln, whose parents were born in Vietnam, insightfully summarizes this rift as being down to an intergenerational divide that occurs whether parents and children come from different countries or different planets. Mandy tries to figure out what kind of future she wants for herself as she struggles with teenage insecurities and bullying, her relationship with her mom, and her budding friendship (or is it something more?) with her new class project partner, Claire. Yoshitani’s vibrant and colorful stylized illustrations beautifully meld the various iterations of Starfire and the Titans with the live-action versions of those characters. Together with Tamaki’s punchy writing, this coming-of-age story of identity, family, friendship, and saving the world is skillfully brought to life in a quick but nuanced read. These layers are most strongly displayed as the story draws parallels between cultural differences between the generations as evidenced in how the characters address bullying, body positivity, fatphobia, fetishization and sexualization, and feminism. This title addresses many important concepts briefly, but well, with great pacing, bold art, and concise and snappy dialogue. The cast is broadly diverse in both primary and secondary characters.

Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. (Graphic fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-126-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DC Comics

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

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It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy.

THE TEMPLE OF DOUBT

From the Temple of Doubt series , Vol. 1

A fantasy series opener pits adolescent angst against an all-powerful religion.

Living in Port Sapphire, on the island of New Meridian in the world of Kuldor, almost-16-year-old Hadara chafes under the tenets of a religion headed by the god Nihil that teaches that magic is superior to anything in nature. Since Hadara and her mother continue the passed-down-in-the-female-line family business of concocting healing potions from plants, the two are regarded with suspicion even as their services are sought out by townspeople. When an object falls from the sky into the marsh, Azwans (mages of Nihil) and their oversized Feroxi guards arrive to investigate, complicating things for Hadara and her family, not least because Hadara begins to have feelings for one of the guards. Although Hadara is a delightfully pert narrator, the story’s foremost tension—her subversive doubt of Nihil’s tenets—fails to reach its full potential because the religious concepts are not convincingly clear enough to weave themselves inextricably into the story. Levy shines brightest in her potent descriptions of settings and her imaginative scenes. Continuity, however, is a recurring problem. Among other lapses, the first two chapters seem to be two separate beginnings.

It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63220-427-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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