Davies' love of history and folklore shine through this exciting and gripping tale of a resourceful, brave, and complex...

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LONGBOW GIRL

A high-stakes time-travel mystery/adventure set in the wild Welsh hills.

Fifteen-year-old Merry Owen, primed by a decade of training that cost her an eye three years ago, is the first female heir of her family's 700-year-old pledge to protect the Crown by the skill of the longbow, a now-honorary tradition that goes back to the Battle of Crécy in 1346. Her family lives on land carved out from the estate of the Earl de Courcy. Davies, in her wonderfully suspenseful debut for teens, sets up an essential central conflict: the ongoing enmity between the Owens and the de Courcys, which Merry and James de Courcy, best friends and fellow risk-takers, must negotiate. This intricately crafted story pivots when Merry discovers a hidden burial mound and an ancient-looking book which is later verified as an extremely valuable lost tale of the Mabinogion. The book, translated in bits, refers to another land and treasures, "a warrior bold, who comes from far away," and is filled with lyrical riddles and clues that lead Merry to a stream, a waterfall, and a concealed cave, a portal back to 1537, during the rule of Henry VIII, where danger lurks at every turn, and it's up to Merry and her archery prowess to save her family's land both then and now.... 

Davies' love of history and folklore shine through this exciting and gripping tale of a resourceful, brave, and complex girl. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-85345-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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