A beautifully written, surprise-filled page-turner.

SPICE ROAD

From the Spice Road series , Vol. 1

Seventeen-year-old Imani leaves the only world she’s ever known to bring home her disgraced older brother in this fantasy adventure.

Sahir is a place of magic, isolated from other nations and threatened only by the monsters that live in the magic-free wasteland known as the Swallowing Sands. Heartbroken by her beloved brother Atheer’s assumed death, Imani throws herself into her work as a member of the Shields, protecting her city of Qalia from these outside threats. She’s aided by the magical properties of Spice, a tea made from the bark of the ancient misra tree that temporarily allows those who consume it to control whichever element of the land they have an affinity for. When Imani finds herself face to face with the djinn Qayn, who claims Atheer is alive and assisting a rebellion in a country across the Swallowing Sands, she persuades the ruling Council of Al-Zahim to let her journey to this unknown land and bring him back. Ibrahim’s worldbuilding is fresh, with an exciting premise that not only promises a tantalizing romance, but explores classism, privilege, and a debate on the human responsibility to support those who are powerless. The novel is heavily influenced by Arab cultures with elements like food (for example, manakish and bamya) and representations of everyday life, like smoking shisha and discussing politics, that feel authentic and natural. All main characters have traditionally Arabic names with varying physical descriptors that speak to the diversity within the Arab world.

A beautifully written, surprise-filled page-turner. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-12696-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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A worthy successor to an explosive debut.

BLOODMARKED

From the Legendborn series , Vol. 2

After Awakening the dormant spirit of her ancestor King Arthur Pendragon, almost-17-year-old Briana Matthews must fight to learn and control her magical inheritances.

As a Black person who also possesses the ability to use Root, a form of magic borrowed from deceased practitioners and passed down to her through her mother’s family, Bree is unique in the Line of Pendragon. It is through blood and violence that Bree’s magical abilities intertwined—both those from Arthur’s Welsh origins and from her family’s Bloodcraft originating during chattel slavery in the American South. Together they have turned her into one of the most powerful people either Line has ever known. The intricacies of her navigation of her new powers are at the heart of this sequel to Legendborn (2020), especially as Bree balances the knowledge that her Blackness creates a critical distance between her and the racist people she is sworn to protect as the king of all Legendborns. The plot is complex, and the morsels of information that help fill in the gaps of knowledge don’t always feel fully formed, which may leave readers confused as they try to keep up with the new powers and beings that are presented. Still, there are important, if hard to read, references, for example, when Bree is kidnapped and experimented on by an all-White council, a turn of events that reflects Deonn’s commitment to presenting unflinching truths about the cyclical insidiousness of racism.

A worthy successor to an explosive debut. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4163-7

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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