Vapid, but at least it reads fast

THE ELITE

From the Selection series

Illéa’s Selection pool of potential princesses has been reduced from 35 to six (The Selection, 2012), and the competition’s getting tense.

Among the six is feisty, iconoclastic America. If Prince Maxon Selects her, as he swears he wants to, she and her lowborn family will rise to Ones in Illéa’s caste system. America is finally ready to say yes when her best friend is eliminated from the Selection with upsetting violence after being found in flagrante with her illicit boyfriend. How can America imagine marrying the future head of such an unjust government? Suddenly, former love Aspen seems attractive again. Love triangle re-established, Cass sends America’s emotions lurching back and forth between Aspen and Maxon for the rest of the book. Life at the palace is periodically punctuated by episodes of violence, as various rebel factions break in and then fall back. The mischievous Northern rebels steal books; the scary Southern ones leave threatening graffiti. Twenty-first-century readers will wonder at the monumental ineptitude of the palace guard. Cass tries to compensate for the virtually nonexistent worldbuilding of the first book with occasional infodumps and excerpts from the diary of Illéa’s founder, secretly lent to America by Maxon. As in the first book, though, the thoughts a well-formed dystopia ought to provoke are buried by the bitchy politics of the Selection and the teeter-totter of America’s yearnings.

Vapid, but at least it reads fast . (Dystopian romance. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-205996-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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