A fine balance of political intrigue, relationship drama, and thoughtful characterization.

DAGGER AND COIN

From the Sword and Verse series , Vol. 2

“Revolutionaries…didn’t consider the paperwork involved when they were plotting their reforms; they just left it to people like me to sort out the details.”

In this riveting fantasy sequel, Soraya Gamo is only 19, but, as the ex-betrothed of the ex-king, she serves on the Ruling Council, struggling to keep Qilara’s two peoples—the original inhabitants, who have dark hair and olive skin, and their fairer newly-emancipated slaves—free, fed, and away from each other’s throats. But the fledgling government, dependent on her family’s rapidly diminishing wealth, is riven by jealousy and mistrust. Assassination attempts leave Soraya alone with the colleague who most despises her to cope with political disasters, financial crises, and an incipient countercoup…that attempts to make her queen. While overstuffed with backstory, Soraya’s compelling narration makes the minutiae of management as thrilling as the betrayals, murders, and desperate gambits propelling the plot. Arrogant, calculating, and suspicious, Soraya isn’t easy to like; but her ferocious intelligence, ruthless discipline, and wry humor command respect, and her clumsy kindness and longing for affection evoke sympathy. Without ever diminishing the horrors of slavery, her emotional scars reveal how entrenched sexism and classism are also corrosive. Even as she sacrifices everything she once valued, Soraya’s hard-won independence feels triumphant; similarly, readers will cheer Qilara’s stumbling progress and hope for future updates.

A fine balance of political intrigue, relationship drama, and thoughtful characterization. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-232464-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences.

REALM BREAKER

When the realm is in danger, only a small band of misfits can save Allward.

An in medias res prologue, told from the point of view of the lone squire accompanying the 12 Companions of the Realm, tosses readers into the thick of a quest. Half the Companions are human heroes and half are immortal Elders; they seek to stop a rogue thief and his wizard accomplice from using a magical Spindle to tear a passage between worlds for nefarious ends. A disastrous battle sends squire Andry fleeing with Cortael’s sword so villain Taristan can’t get his hands on it. Grieving Elder Dom requires both a person of Corblood (a descendant of human travelers from another realm) and the Spindleblade Andry protects to stop Taristan from bringing ruin to the realm. Dom seeks Cortael’s secret daughter, Corayne, a bright but sheltered teenager with a pirate mother. At times the narrative tension is undermined by flashbacks that readers already know the conclusions to and by occasional repetition caused by the multiple point-of-view jumps, but there’s a wide variety of action scenes, daring escapes, and betrayals. Many tropes and character types are familiar, but exquisite descriptions and clashing motivations result in a nuanced, sprawling realm with a sense of complicated history. This world is highly diverse in terms of both skin tone and in the refreshing range of roles female characters inhabit.

An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287262-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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