A middling debut that promises a more polished sequel.

GRAVEMAIDENS

Can 16-year-old Kammani’s skills as a healer save her family?

Kammani’s mother is dead. Her father—who was once the best healer in the city of Alu—drowns his grief in alcohol. Her brother, Kasha, was stolen by the royal family as a punishment for Kammani’s father’s inability to heal the ruler’s dying son years before. Kammani’s sister, Nanaea, is all she has left. But when Nanaea is unexpectedly chosen to be a Sacred Maiden—one of three young women chosen to be killed and buried with the ruler upon his death—Nanaea believes it’s a chance to recapture her family’s glory. Kammani knows better. In a desperate bid to save Nanaea’s life, Kammani is determined to heal the ruler at any cost—even her own life. Coon builds a rich and detailed world complete with a history and rules that readers will enjoy uncovering slowly. While the setting feels satisfying, the characters do not. Kammani’s constant insecurity about her romance with Dagan, for example, feels superficial, as does the entire town’s obsession with the Sacred Maiden ceremony. Furthermore, the prose often feels clunky and stilted, a pattern that becomes even more obvious when compared to many passages of easy, witty dialogue. The last third of the book is the strongest, as though the author finally found her way. Characters have a variety of different skin tones.

A middling debut that promises a more polished sequel.   (resources) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-64782-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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

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SCYTHE

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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