WINTERKEEP

From the Graceling Realm series , Vol. 4

Return to the Graceling Realm in this follow-up to Bitterblue (2012).

Five years ago, Queen Bitterblue of Monsea was picking up the pieces of her kingdom after the horrific rule of her disturbed father, King Leck. Now, contact has been made with a new continent, Torla. The closest country, Winterkeep, is a democratic republic with eco-friendly airships and telepathic animals. The story shifts among five third-person perspectives: Bitterblue; Giddon, who appeared in Graceling (2008); Lovisa, the teen daughter of the Keepish president; a telepathic fox named Adventure; and a mysterious 13-tentacled undersea creature. En route to Winterkeep, Bitterblue is assumed to have drowned but she’s actually been kidnapped. Meanwhile, Lovisa (who’s skilled at spying) attempts to uncover her parents’ secrets while processing new revelations about them—and herself. Cashore excels at finely drawn characters and realistic portrayals of toxic parents’ effect on their children. While the focus on the themes of sex and environmentalism risks veering too heavily into didacticism, this worthy addition to the series is sure to excite fans who, after eight years, may not have dared hope for another installment. This is both a timely primer on the dangers of a politically divided society and a good story. Keepish people are brown-skinned; half-Lienid Bitterblue is light-brown skinned; and Monseans are fair-skinned.

A keeper. (map, note to the reader, cast of characters) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4150-8

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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 bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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