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THE BONE SPINDLE

An enchanting read for fans of fairy-tale romance and girls with battle axes.

Two treasure hunters aim to save a sleeping prince in this gender-swapped “Sleeping Beauty.”

Historian Filore Nenroa and lady “huntsman” Shane Ragnall are teen treasure hunters, each doomed by curse or circumstance to wander far from their homes. While exploring magical ruins, Fi pricks her finger on a spindle and discovers that she is destined to wake Briar Rose, the beautiful sleeping prince who seems to have stepped straight out of shōjo manga. Meanwhile, Shane meets Red, a mysterious and enthralling young woman who keeps popping up at just the right moments. Looming over their journey is the Spindle Witch, who cursed Briar Rose and his fallen kingdom. Vedder comes across as very self-aware of the clichés she is subverting. The unsatisfying ending is clearly a setup for sequels; nevertheless, the overall impression is charming, with lively adventure, likable characters, and a creative take on magic and witches. The romances between Fi and Briar and Shane and Red are passionate and fluttery but stay realistic by—pointedly—rejecting destiny. Fi and Shane face exciting, video game–like fights and puzzles during their quests, always doing their best to avoid killing people. In this fairy-tale world, being gay is satisfyingly unremarkable. Two of the protagonists read as White; the other two ambiguously have tan skin and dark hair, and background characters have a range of skin tones.

An enchanting read for fans of fairy-tale romance and girls with battle axes. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32582-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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THE DARKNESS WITHIN US

Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy.

The underestimated sister of a soon-to-be queen has her own tale to tell in this companion novel to Levenseller’s The Shadows Between Us (2020).

Nineteen-year-old Chrysantha and her younger sister, Alessandra, who’s the fiancee of the Shadow King, don’t have the best relationship. Chrysantha has always been jealous of how easily Alessandra achieves success, while Alessandra thinks Chrysantha is a fool. For her part, Chrysantha uses this reputation as a facade and a means to an end while she patiently awaits the demise of her lewd—and wealthy—husband, the Duke of Pholios. With Chrysantha’s assistance, the 64-year-old duke dies, allowing his widow to drop the charade and focus on being independent and spending money according to her own whims and desires. That is, until distractingly handsome 18-year-old Eryx Demos arrives, claiming to be her late husband’s heir who’s ready to take control of the estate. Combining her objectives of outshining Alessandra at her royal wedding with enjoying some captivating arm candy and gaining Eryx’s trust in order to stab him in the back, Chrysantha takes up the job of molding Eryx into a proper duke. Chrysantha’s and Eryx’s wickedly charming personalities clash in the most pleasing and seductive ways, so that even though the plot feels repetitive at times, there’s still much to delight in. Chrysantha’s skin is “dark beige”; Eryx is “tanned” and has “tawny-brown hair.”

Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy. (Fantasy romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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