Good historical fiction with a paranormal twist.

THE MANY LIVES OF JOHN STONE

What happens when a girl meets a man who has been alive for centuries?

Stella, who calls herself “Spark,” takes an internship with an attractive man who lives in an odd, secluded mansion in England. Her job is to organize old journals written in a cipher that she cannot read. Her employer, John Stone, lives rather mysteriously with a housekeeper, Martha, and a groundskeeper, Jacob, who both behave oddly. Martha seems unfamiliar with electricity and cooks on a woodstove. Joseph acts with constant hostility toward Spark. The book alternates between Spark’s story and John Stone’s diaries. Readers learn early that Stone, although he still looks young, is nearly 350 years old and moved at the age of 15 to Louis XIV’s court in 1685, becoming a confidant of the king and falling in love with Isabelle, a girl who seemed forever out of his reach. John Stone’s story, in his earlier identity as Jean-Pierre, works well as a separate narrative, involving intricate court intrigues that can have severe consequences for himself and for Isabelle. Spark’s story is less successful, seeming almost pointless until she finds a connection between herself and Stone very late in the book. Although the book seems nearly as lengthy as Stone’s life (only one, despite the title), Buckley-Archer paints an absorbing portrait of the court of Versailles.

Good historical fiction with a paranormal twist. (Paranormal historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2637-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic.

ALL OUR HIDDEN GIFTS

An Irish teen grapples with past misdeeds and newfound ties to magic.

When 16-year-old Maeve discovers a deck of tarot cards stashed with a mixtape of moody indie music from 1990, she starts giving readings for her classmates at her all-girls private school. Though her shame over dumping her strange friend Lily during an attempt to climb the social ladder at St. Bernadette’s is still palpable, it doesn’t stop her from trying to use the tarot in her favor to further this goal. However, after speaking harsh words to Lily during a reading, Maeve is horrified when her former friend later disappears. As she struggles to understand the forces at play within her, classmate Fiona proves to be just the friend Maeve needs. Detailed, interesting characters carry this contemporary story of competing energy and curses. Woven delicately throughout are chillingly eerie depictions of the Housekeeper, a figure who shows up on an extra card in the deck, echoing the White Lady legend from Irish folklore. Even more disturbing is an organization of young people led by a homophobic but charismatic figurehead intent on provoking backlash against Ireland’s recent civil rights victories. Most characters are White; Fiona is biracial, with a Filipina mother and White Irish father. Roe, Maeve’s love interest and Lily’s sibling, is a bisexual, genderqueer person who is a target for intolerance in their small city of Kilbeg.

An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1394-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A different kind of fairy tale, for older and wiser readers.

BRAVELY

Disney adaptations are familiar, but this title marks a new gambit: a novel sequel that accepts the source movie, Brave, as canon.

Merida, now nearly 20, has negotiated a truce with her mother (they never talk about betrothals or marriage) and traveled the kingdom learning new things. But little has changed otherwise: The triplets are still a force of chaos, Merida prefers archery to embroidery, the kingdom is at peace, and magic is at rest. That is, until Feradach, the god who brings ruin in order to make room for growth, threatens to destroy everything Merida loves unless she can change her family enough to end their stagnation. This is still clearly a fairy-tale world, but Stiefvater’s understanding of medieval history (briefly detailed in the author’s note) grounds it, as does the very believable nature of Merida’s conflict: Saving what she loves means transforming it beyond what she knows. The episodic structure as Merida takes on three journeys, each with different family members, moves more slowly than the movie, but the depth of characterization—as shown in Feradach and Queen Elinor in particular—is nuanced and noteworthy. Readers who spent their childhoods watching Merida engage with magic will readily fall under her spell again as she negotiates the hardest challenge of all: growing up. All characters are assumed White.

A different kind of fairy tale, for older and wiser readers. (Historical fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-368-07134-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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