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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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

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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