Though at times long-winded, this is a fitting conclusion to an inventive fantasy series.

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RUIN OF STARS

From the Mask of Shadows series , Vol. 2

In this conclusion to a fantasy duology, genderfluid assassin Sal hunts down the five Erlend nobles on their hit list.

Sal is out for revenge on North Star, Deadfall, Riparian, Caldera, and Winter, the code names for those responsible for the decimation of Sal’s home country, Nacea. Designated the new Honorable Opal and afforded the resources of the queen of Igna’s elite assassins, Sal hunts down the Erlend nobles who now threaten Igna with war. While uncovering the dark plot that connects flayed corpses, severed ears, and missing children, Sal copes with PTSD and deepens their relationship with Elise de Farone. The bloody action is diluted by scene after scene of lengthy dialogue and repetitious narration. Despite technical issues, readers will appreciate the novel’s timely parallels to our world; Erlend’s “us first” mentality and adherence to heteronormative gender roles are particularly familiar. Miller (Mask of Shadows, 2017) remedies the previous book’s misstep of conflating expression and identity. This time, she more accurately represents genderfluidity by asserting that presentation does not equate gender identity and by introducing more transgender and nonbinary characters. The cast is also racially diverse; Sal is brown-skinned, with other characters ranging from white to dark brown.

Though at times long-winded, this is a fitting conclusion to an inventive fantasy series. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4752-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell...

SIX OF CROWS

Adolescent criminals seek the haul of a lifetime in a fantasyland at the beginning of its industrial age.

The dangerous city of Ketterdam is governed by the Merchant Council, but in reality, large sectors of the city are given over to gangs who run the gambling dens and brothels. The underworld's rising star is 17-year-old Kaz Brekker, known as Dirtyhands for his brutal amorality. Kaz walks with chronic pain from an old injury, but that doesn't stop him from utterly destroying any rivals. When a councilman offers him an unimaginable reward to rescue a kidnapped foreign chemist—30 million kruge!—Kaz knows just the team he needs to assemble. There's Inej, an itinerant acrobat captured by slavers and sold to a brothel, now a spy for Kaz; the Grisha Nina, with the magical ability to calm and heal; Matthias the zealot, hunter of Grishas and caught in a hopeless spiral of love and vengeance with Nina; Wylan, the privileged boy with an engineer's skills; and Jesper, a sharpshooter who keeps flirting with Wylan. Bardugo broadens the universe she created in the Grisha Trilogy, sending her protagonists around countries that resemble post-Renaissance northern Europe, where technology develops in concert with the magic that's both coveted and despised. It’s a highly successful venture, leaving enough open questions to cause readers to eagerly await Volume 2.

Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell into a family . (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-212-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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