A lush and bloody historical thriller.

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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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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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Heart-pounding.

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CEMETERY BOYS

A gay, transgender brujo with burgeoning powers seeks answers about his cousin’s death.

Sixteen-year-old Yadriel also wishes for acknowledgement from his community but unexpectedly finds himself entangled in the unresolved wishes of a strong-willed, good-looking spirit. He descends from a long line of brujx who have been granted magic power by Lady Death to heal the living and to guide spirits into the afterlife. Although he’s grown up surrounded by a close-knit community, Yadriel feels alone, excluded indefinitely from a sacred rite of passage because he is transgender. When he senses that his cousin Miguel has died suddenly but the family can’t locate him, Yadriel sees an opportunity to prove to everyone he’s a true brujo by solving the mystery and releasing his cousin’s lost spirit. His plan quickly falls apart, as he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian Diaz, a boy with unfinished business who died the same day as Miguel. Both the romance and mystery burn slow and hot until the climax. Stakes begin high, and the intensity only increases with a looming deadline and a constant risk that Julian might lose himself, turning maligno. The cast of characters represents a diversity of Latinx identities sharing a community in East Los Angeles. Julian is Colombian while Yadriel is Cuban and Mexican. Their romance provides joyful, ground-breaking representation for gay, transgender boys.

Heart-pounding. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25046-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Swoon Reads/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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