A jumble of characters and stereotypes does not constitute worldbuilding. Skip

SHADOWS OF GLASS

From the Ashes of Twilight series , Vol. 2

What ought to be a tense story of discovery after escaping a post-apocalyptic steampunk hellscape is overwhelmed by a bland, unremarkable love triangle.

At the end of Ashes of Twilight (2012), Wren led her fellow coal-mining villagers out of the dome that’s imprisoned them for generations. The outside world is not blazing afire, as their rulers have assured them ever since the comet that sent their people into the domes generations ago, during the Victoria era. Though the sun burns their pale skin, and the fresh air (ridiculously) kills many of the escapees, Wren is determined never to go back. Though the events of the first book ended Wren’s previous wearisome love triangle, never fear: A new charismatic young man appears, along with some other outlandish adventurers, to add ponderous romantic tension. Wren’s ogling of all the boys—“[t]he smooth breadth of their chests, the work of the muscles in the back, the dips and curves in the stomachs and hips”—is endless. She’s not even distracted by the nigh-feral attackers outside the dome: stinky, toothless and speaking in a laughable hillbilly dialect (in coastal Wales, these ruffians deliver such gems as “I’m ah-tellin-ya”).

A jumble of characters and stereotypes does not constitute worldbuilding. Skip . (Steampunk. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-64176-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

HIT

A dual-narrator novel explores the concept of forgiveness.

Budding poet Sarah is torn between two colleges: Mills, which has offered her a full scholarship, and the University of Washington, whose only appeal is Mr. Haddings. A grad student and poet-in-residence at her school, the charismatic Haddings has Sarah considering a change of plans, to the dismay of Sarah’s controlling mother. Haddings knows he needs to keep the relationship professional, but he’s having a hard time with that. Then, in a moment of distraction, Haddings hits Sarah with his car. Over the next three days, Sarah will cope with the pain, the accident and her worries about her future, while her family—oblivious father, brittle mother and immature brother—and her best friend try to help her. Haddings copes with his crushing guilt, usually making choices that make everything worse. Straining credulity, both Sarah and Haddings wonder if there might be a chance for them still, when the more important question is whether they can ever forgive. Plot events are sequenced poorly and depend far too much on coincidence for their effect; the dual narrative does not provide substantial additional insight, making it feel contrived as well. Stilted dialogue makes characters feel flat, particularly Sarah’s brother.

Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-310-7295-0-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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