Lyricism notwithstanding, this tale falls short of spellbinding.

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WE ARE BLOOD AND THUNDER

From the We are Blood and Thunder series , Vol. 1

In Lupo’s debut, a deadly spell connects very different girls.

Lena is an outcast. A facial birthmark brands her as a cryptling—a disabled or disfigured person banished underground to tend the bodies of deceased Ancestors. In Duke’s Forest, Ancestors are worshiped and magic is outlawed. When a mysterious storm cloud brings a plague upon the kingdom and the Duke becomes ill, his representative, the sinister Justice, orders that all mages be executed. When she is convicted of magecraft, Lena must flee to the City of Kings and tame her powers by pledging herself to one of nine gods, forsaking the Ancestors. After six years, Constance, the Duke’s daughter and a talented mage, has returned to Duke’s Forest on a mission: to find and destroy the spell’s “heart.” But without the other, neither girl can succeed. Their stories build in alternating third-person chapters, increasing the suspense of their respective quests. Unfortunately, despite descriptive prose and musings on identity and self-acceptance, uneven character development and a rushed ending blunt the impact of their stories’ intersection and weaken a climactic twist. The magic and social class systems are familiar; a romance feels hasty and contrived. Most characters, including Constance, appear to be white; several characters, including Lena, are brown skinned. A minor character is gay and closeted.

Lyricism notwithstanding, this tale falls short of spellbinding. (maps, guide to the gods) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4088-9805-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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