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Compelling characters and worldbuilding are let down by an unengaging plot.

Secrets abound and elves invade in this multiperspective fantasy.

Readers are welcomed into the corridors of Four Halls castle through four first-person, present perspectives. There’s tenacious Thelia, her eyes set on the crown; quick-witted Parsifal, whose facial disfigurement is ridiculed; Bayled, the king’s ward and heir; and Sapphire, a nonbinary elf who overtakes Four Halls along with an elite elven crew. Though these elves arrive to prevent a dangerous overflow of Magic, their ruthless methods petrify the humans and shock Sapphire, who expected the invasion to be nonviolent. As conditions worsen for the humans, Thelia, Parsifal, and Bayled work to overthrow the elves, with Sapphire showing signs of going turncoat as they develop affection for their captives. The narrative’s strength lies in its strong-willed characters and deeply developed world, but these don’t make up for a slow-moving plot, unconvincing emotional beats, and a lack of agency among protagonists. While the split perspectives initially create intrigue by letting readers in on secrets and lies, later they lead to duplicated information reveals and contribute to the story’s slow pace. Life-threatening situations and complicated romantic entanglements receive equal attention; an explicit sex scene between cousins will likely take readers by surprise, though a blooming polyamorous relationship is a refreshing addition. Protagonists are diverse in skin color, sexuality, and gender.

Compelling characters and worldbuilding are let down by an unengaging plot. (map) (Fantasy. 16-18)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5124-2997-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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From the Empirium Trilogy series , Vol. 2

A very full mixed bag.

In the sequel to Furyborn (2018), Rielle and Eliana struggle across time with their powers and prophesied destinies.

Giving readers only brief recaps, this book throws them right into complicated storylines in this large, lovingly detailed fantasy world filled with multiple countries, two different time periods, and hostile angels. Newly ordained Rielle contends with villainous Corien’s interest in her, the weakening gate that holds the angels at bay, and distrust from those who don’t believe her to be the Sun Queen. A thousand years in the future, Eliana chafes under her unwanted destiny and finds her fear of losing herself to her powers (like the Blood Queen) warring with her need to save those close to her. The rigid alternation between time-separated storylines initially feels overstuffed, undermining tension, but once more characters get point-of-view chapters and parallels start paying off, the pace picks up. The multiethnic cast (human versus angelic is the only divide with weight) includes characters of many sexual orientations, and their romantic storylines include love triangles, casual dalliances, steady couples, and couples willing to invite in a third. While many of the physically intimate scenes are loving, some are rougher, including ones that cross lines of clear consent and introduce a level of violence that many young readers will not be ready for. The ending brings heartbreaking twists to prime readers for the trilogy’s conclusion.

A very full mixed bag. (map, list of elements) (Fantasy. 17-adult)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5665-4

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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