A lush and bloody historical thriller.

BLOOD COUNTESS

From the Lady Slayers series , Vol. 1

In 16th-century Hungary, 16-year-old Anna Darvulia, a talented healer, becomes a chambermaid to the notorious Countess Elizabeth of Bathory.

After her father dies, providing for her family now falls to Anna; marriage is not an option and holds no appeal. Scullery work is backbreaking, but Anna seizes on the opportunity to prove her worth when the Countess falls ill. The vibrant, 19-year-old Elizabeth awakens something in Anna, and she eventually becomes Elizabeth’s lover and pampered companion. But Elizabeth, who is obsessed with youth, beauty, and the healthy bloom that blood brings to the cheeks, has a dark side. Anna has difficulty reconciling the Countess’ vicious treatment of her staff with the kind, generous Elizabeth she knows so intimately. However, as Elizabeth spirals into full-blown madness, Anna comes to her senses and plans her escape—but can Anna also escape her own complicity? Popovic (Fierce Like a Firestorm, 2018, etc.) masterfully conveys the genuine, visceral horror of Elizabeth’s actions (and startling body count) without being gratuitous, though to remain true to the Bathory legend, there must be blood. It’s difficult to humanize a legendary monster like Bathory, but Popovic gives it an admirable shot. She also touches on how a patriarchal society can drive women to extremes without letting the truly terrifying Bathory, or Anna, off the hook for their own actions. All characters seem to be white.

A lush and bloody historical thriller. (Thriller. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3886-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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