BRIGHT RAVEN SKIES

From the Sweet Black Waves series , Vol. 3

Readers will find inspiration in a young woman claiming her identity.

The final volume of a trilogy transforms a tragic legend into a feminist triumph.

Branwen’s deal with Dhusnos, the god of death, may have saved King Marc’s castle but at the cost of the peace for which she sacrificed everything. Tristan and Eseult stand accused of treason, and Branwen still owes Dhusnos a murder. In the conclusion to this sprawling retelling, Branwen and the rest of the huge, intertwined, ethnically and sexually diverse cast race from combat to trials to duels to sea battles, from lies to trysts to betrayals to marriages to funerals, only pausing to wallow in guilt and spectacular self-loathing. Pérez’s alternative medieval world is immersive and detailed, her prose lush with mystical symbolism. Despite their worldly power, men function mostly either to admire or obstruct Branwen (sometimes both) while all the women are complicated and authentic, with independent (if not always admirable) agendas and rich narrative arcs. Within this oppressively patriarchal society, it is the bonds of mentorship, respect, trust, and love among women that make a difference. Although the messy, overwrought love triangle (heptagon, really) is eventually more-or-less resolved, the real climax occurs when Branwen learns to accept her own intrinsic worth and destiny. By the bittersweet ending, she has earned her choices.

Readers will find inspiration in a young woman claiming her identity. (dramatis personae, glossary) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-13287-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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