Unfortunately, this debut is just another first in an epic fantasy trilogy that relies on a love triangle to bring tension...



From the Burning Glass series , Vol. 1

Revolution is brewing in Riaznin, and 17-year-old novice Auraseer Sonya Petrova is the people’s only hope for freedom.

Sonya can divine the feelings of others, and as a result of her ability, she belongs to the empire. When the current sovereign Auraseer is executed for failing in her duties, Sonya, as the next eldest Auraseer, must take her place. In a palace of gold, marble, and amber, she becomes the ruthless Emperor Valko’s sixth sense, his guard against those who seek to destroy him. The blandly drawn and oftentimes whiny Sonya quickly falls into a problematic willing-unwilling love affair with the manipulative and violent emperor. She also falls for Prince Anton, Valko’s treasonous younger brother, but his attitude toward her seems indifferent. The love triangle plays out predictably and resolves, at least for now, in Sonya’s commitment (described without graphic sex in one of many over-the-top ways: “Our auras entwined in a beautiful dance and affirmed the rightness of our union”); the political situation likewise plays out without much suspense. Connections to the world-outside-the-book are clear: Riaznin is certainly czarist Russia circa the revolution, while surrounding empires Estengarde, Abdara, and Shengli are analogous to France, Iran, and China, respectively; the Romska Sonya travels with correspond to the Romany, down to their coloring.

Unfortunately, this debut is just another first in an epic fantasy trilogy that relies on a love triangle to bring tension to the story.   (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-241236-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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