While this volume comes to a satisfying conclusion, thoughtful readers will keep pondering the future of Forge and its people

MIDNIGHT THIEF

A debut fantasy spins standard tropes into a dark, morally complex adventure.

Fearless former “gutter rat” Kyra gleefully steals from the wealthy, while the upright knight Tristam pledges to defend the city of Forge against the marauding Demon Riders. When the charismatic James persuades Kyra to aid the Assassins Guild in their effort to undermine the corrupt aristocracy, the ensuing plots and counterplots strain loyalties and threaten the entire city. Hoary genre clichés are refreshed by nuanced portrayal: Forge appears a typical medieval-ish fantasy city, but it’s rife with oppression and festering resentments; the Demon Riders’ wildcats, the only magical element, feel convincingly alien. Kyra, at first seeming a tiresome rehash of the “thief with a heart of gold” type, has her naïveté ripped away with a shockingly brutal choice that sends repercussions reverberating throughout the story. James, introduced as a charmingly seductive bad boy, loses his romantic appeal with his cynical manipulations. Even Tristam, the most conventionally virtuous protagonist, finds that base methods in pursuit of laudable ends have tragic consequences. Each character must choose between bad and worse options, and not all make the “right” decision. While both Kyra and Tristam achieve redemption (of a sort) by the end, they pay a cruel price—and neither is altogether certain it was worth the cost.

While this volume comes to a satisfying conclusion, thoughtful readers will keep pondering the future of Forge and its people . (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7638-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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A second volume that sets the scene for more to come.

DEFEND THE DAWN

From the Defy the Night series , Vol. 2

As the Moonflower supply in Kandala dwindles, a ship arrives with a trade opportunity in this follow-up to Defy the Night (2021).

Moonflowers are critical for an elixir that cures the fever sickness. Prior to his assassination, King Lucas of Kandala sent a spy to neighboring Ostriary, whose connection with Kandala had been severed. Now Capt. Rian Blakemore arrives in Kandala claiming to be the spy’s son, offering Moonflowers in exchange for steel, and inviting a delegation to meet with the Ostrian king. Tessa Cade, outlaw-turned–royal apothecary, is eager to go. Since the invasion of the Royal Sector, Kandala’s King Harristan has attempted to negotiate better distribution of Moonflower petals to the poorer districts, but tension among the rebels, consuls, and royals has stalled progress. An alternate supply of Moonflowers would buy time for Tessa to find another cure. Her hope is countered by the cynicism of the King’s Justice, Prince Corrick. Nevertheless, he boards Blakemore’s ship along with Tessa and rebel leader Lochlan Cresswell. As Tessa and Corrick try to discern hidden motives and a possible trap, they reexamine their relationship, which gets tested by the mysterious captain. Chapters told in alternating perspectives draw out the plot at a measured pace, ending with a series of shocking revelations. The structure results in introspective accounts following different concurrent events, slowing the story’s forward momentum. Characters have varying skin tones.

A second volume that sets the scene for more to come. (map, cast of characters) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5476-1007-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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