Deeply enmeshed with a magical world and its impossible choices before readers ever meet her, Ava and her wholly believable...

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FIREBUG

From the Firebug series , Vol. 1

An indentured magical assassin just wants a little peace with her chosen family.

Firebug Ava, who can set fires with her mind, has been on the run her whole life. When Ava’s firebug mother became pregnant, she did the unthinkable and fled from the supernatural mob, raising Ava on the road for years, always in hiding. But nobody escapes the Coterie alive, and Ava’s mom was no exception. Orphaned, Ava lives with her mother’s human childhood sweetheart in rural Maine. She’s allowed to stay in Maine only on the condition of her loyalty to Venus, the Coterie’s bloodthirsty vampire leader. Along with her two best friends, also unwilling Coterie employees, Ava’s an unpaid assassin. Ava, Ezra, a werefox, and Lock, a handsome dryad, are Venus’ enforcers, putting down any supernaturals foolish enough to challenge Venus’ power. As long as Ava does the bloody work, she and her loved ones are left alone—but what happens when Venus demands something Ava simply won’t do? Ava’s exhausted despair, her love for her found family and her coldly practical choices are pre-existing conditions, and the moral decisions she makes are surprisingly nuanced.

Deeply enmeshed with a magical world and its impossible choices before readers ever meet her, Ava and her wholly believable despair are a refreshing change from the endless parade of naïve heroines found elsewhere . (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9862-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy.

THE TEMPLE OF DOUBT

From the Temple of Doubt series , Vol. 1

A fantasy series opener pits adolescent angst against an all-powerful religion.

Living in Port Sapphire, on the island of New Meridian in the world of Kuldor, almost-16-year-old Hadara chafes under the tenets of a religion headed by the god Nihil that teaches that magic is superior to anything in nature. Since Hadara and her mother continue the passed-down-in-the-female-line family business of concocting healing potions from plants, the two are regarded with suspicion even as their services are sought out by townspeople. When an object falls from the sky into the marsh, Azwans (mages of Nihil) and their oversized Feroxi guards arrive to investigate, complicating things for Hadara and her family, not least because Hadara begins to have feelings for one of the guards. Although Hadara is a delightfully pert narrator, the story’s foremost tension—her subversive doubt of Nihil’s tenets—fails to reach its full potential because the religious concepts are not convincingly clear enough to weave themselves inextricably into the story. Levy shines brightest in her potent descriptions of settings and her imaginative scenes. Continuity, however, is a recurring problem. Among other lapses, the first two chapters seem to be two separate beginnings.

It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63220-427-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

HIT

A dual-narrator novel explores the concept of forgiveness.

Budding poet Sarah is torn between two colleges: Mills, which has offered her a full scholarship, and the University of Washington, whose only appeal is Mr. Haddings. A grad student and poet-in-residence at her school, the charismatic Haddings has Sarah considering a change of plans, to the dismay of Sarah’s controlling mother. Haddings knows he needs to keep the relationship professional, but he’s having a hard time with that. Then, in a moment of distraction, Haddings hits Sarah with his car. Over the next three days, Sarah will cope with the pain, the accident and her worries about her future, while her family—oblivious father, brittle mother and immature brother—and her best friend try to help her. Haddings copes with his crushing guilt, usually making choices that make everything worse. Straining credulity, both Sarah and Haddings wonder if there might be a chance for them still, when the more important question is whether they can ever forgive. Plot events are sequenced poorly and depend far too much on coincidence for their effect; the dual narrative does not provide substantial additional insight, making it feel contrived as well. Stilted dialogue makes characters feel flat, particularly Sarah’s brother.

Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-310-7295-0-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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