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


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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Both earnest and nuanced without seeking causes or cures


A 16-year-old English girl with too much anxiety to speak in public makes a new friend.

Steffi no longer identifies as selectively mute, though she still finds it nearly impossible to speak in public. She’s currently diagnosed with a range of anxiety and communication disorders: healthier but still fragile. And Tem, her sole childhood friend, has switched schools, leaving her alone. Nevertheless, Steffi’s been doing cognitive behavioral therapy and has started medication; she’s determined to make this the year when she speaks in school. A teacher introduces Steffi to a new boy at school, Rhys, because he’s deaf, and Steffi knows a little British Sign Language. A very little—Steffi’s BSL and Rhys’ lip reading are adequate, but as their friendship grows, they switch fluidly among sign, fingerspelling, writing, and texts. Her deepening relationship with Rhys is exciting, but is he with her only because she speaks BSL? Steffi’s improving mental health might enable her to go to university despite parental ambivalence, but her expanding social life alienates her from Tem. There’s broad representation in this romantic coming-of-age novel: of perception of disability (Steffi wants to be “normal,” Rhys wouldn’t choose to hear); of family support (Steffi’s infantalizing mum, Rhys’ BSL–fluent family); of a racially diverse community (Steffi’s white, Tem’s black, Rhys is biracial black/white, and their community is realistically diverse).

Both earnest and nuanced without seeking causes or cures . (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0241-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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Fans of the series who managed to enjoy volumes four and five will be pleased to find more of the same


From the Imaginarium Geographica series , Vol. 6

The Caretakers fight the mind-controlling Echthroi through a tangle of timelines.

This penultimate volume in the Imaginarium Geographica series features such a massive ensemble of dead white men that it's difficult to follow their storylines. Don Quixote, Aristophanes and a badger quest for magic armor. Charles Williams, original characters Rose and Edmund, H.G. Wells, Richard Burton and a Clash of the Titans–style mechanical owl travel in time. J.R.R. Tolkien and Jules Verne meet a secret society so packed with dead authors that six William Blake clones ("We call them Blake's Seven") fit right in. A Chinese librarian speaking pidgin English betrays the questers, Medea meets Gilgamesh, and triple agents abound. A goblin market is peopled with characters from The Last Unicorn who make jokes from Blazing Saddles; Nathaniel Hawthorne paraphrases the 1988 cult classic They Live; a future Caretaker quotes Darth Vader. "Jules Verne show[s] goats descended from the herds of Genghis Khan in a county fair in an Indian nation in America … " Confused yet? If not, perhaps you'll be able to make sense of a resolution that relies on pasts that never were and futures that might-have-been.

Fans of the series who managed to enjoy volumes four and five will be pleased to find more of the same . (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1223-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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