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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Without sparks to sustain it, the story fizzles.

WAKING IN TIME

She’s going back in time; he’s going forward; they meet in 1961.

Still raw from her grandmother’s death, 18-year-old Abbi takes comfort in the fact that she is starting her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It’s the perfect place, one where the white narrator can make a fresh start and stay close to the memory of Grandma, who once walked the very same halls. But in her wildest dreams, Abbi never could have imagined just how close the two would be. For reasons she is desperate to understand, Abbi finds herself traveling backward through time, with each new stop providing clues to a mysterious family secret. To add to the intrigue, Abbi discovers she’s not the only time traveler. Will, a handsome white farm boy from 1927, is on his own journey forward through time, and Abbi gradually realizes that Will is not only linked to her family’s past, but also holds the key to her heart—past, present, and future. Though this may provide a quick fix for fans of time-travel romance, the novel fails to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. While Abbi is a likable-enough protagonist, the story meanders, and the dialogue often feels stilted. However, the greatest disappointment is that a potentially delicious romance between Abbi and Will fails to gain any traction for the first two-thirds of the novel.

Without sparks to sustain it, the story fizzles. (Science fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63079-070-7

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Switch/Capstone

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Twists aplenty in a gorefest replete with violent emotions and events.

FREAKS

From the Freaks series , Vol. 1

Four savagely bullied ninth graders suddenly acquire superpowers.

Christian, proudly out as lesbian since sixth grade, and her friends—geeky Micah, mousy Gabby, and uptight Jamie—inadvertently open an interdimensional hole by playing with an old book of spells. It somehow leaves them with a diverse mix of abilities, from shooting flames to flying. Only Micah burns to repay their trio of bullies for years of pantsing, swirlies, threats, and humiliating pranks. The other three take broader views, which turns out to be a good thing, as a cunning, telepathic, blood-sucking monster from another dimension has also come through the hole to crush heads and feed on residents of their small Arkansas town. Riley goes for the gusto, opening with raw language and vividly explicit incidents of bullying followed by rising general terror punctuated by sprays of blood. He also stirs in some juicy complications, as tracking and battling the monster requires the self-styled Freaks not only to learn to control their powers and rein in the half-deranged Micah, but somehow find a way to work with one of the bullies who had been lurking near the spellcasting and has come away with superstrength and the emotional stability of the Hulk. Both unresolved internal conflicts and the revelation that there are more monsters out there promise further entries. Christian and Micah present White; Gabby is Jewish and Latina, and Jamie is African American.

Twists aplenty in a gorefest replete with violent emotions and events. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-945501-53-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Imbrifex Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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