Any lover of retellings or original fairy tales will enjoy these offerings, whether they’re new to Bardugo’s worlds or are...

THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS

MIDNIGHT TALES AND DANGEROUS MAGIC

Six reimagined fairy tales set in the Grishaverse.

Bardugo returns to the setting of Shadow and Bone (2012) with both original tales and familiar ones retold. Three are set in the Russia-like Ravka, including “The Witch of Duva.” This “Hansel and Gretel” variant plays on stereotypes about villainy held by protagonist Nadya. (It also replaces candy with mouthwatering meals: “crispy roast goose,” “butter-soaked blini,” “black bread spread with soft cheese,” “hot tea laced with sugar,” “sweet rolls with prune jam.”) From the island nation of Kerch, there’s “The Soldier Prince,” a retelling of The Nutcracker that raises questions about the selfhood of magical creatures. The Fjerdan “When Water Sang Fire” provides a villain origin story for “The Little Mermaid” that owes far more to Disney than to Hans Christian Andersen; it’s nevertheless gorgeously otherworldly. Only the Ravkan stories offer substantial local flavor, though Zemeni Ayama is brown-skinned while the Fjerdan mermaids are fair. Kipin’s two-color illustrated borders build cumulatively and fascinatingly, culminating in a double-page spread for each story. The more stylized illustrations, such as the thorns and labyrinth building slowly around the “Beauty and the Beast” variant “Ayama and the Thorn Wood,” are the most successful; depictions of people are a little cutesy for the eerie prose.

Any lover of retellings or original fairy tales will enjoy these offerings, whether they’re new to Bardugo’s worlds or are established fans . (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-12252-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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