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A lush and lively adventure replete with romance, revenge, and robbery.

Part heist, part heart-wrenching coming-of-age novel, this is a new take on “The Goose Girl.”

An incorrigible thief, 17-year-old Vanja Schmidt’s biggest theft was her mistress’s life. Displacing Kör-prinzessin Gisele, soon-to-be Markgräfinvon Reigenbach, after arriving in Bóern, Vanja has been masquerading as both Gisele and Greta, the maid, using her newfound access to steal from the elite as the Pfennigeist (Penny Phantom). Sick of being a servant and repeatedly abandoned—first by her mother, then by her adoptive goddess godmothers, Death and Fortune—Vanja’s saving up for her escape from the Blessed Empire of Almandy, hoping to outrun Gisele, her thefts, the law, and the gods. Revenge against abusive aristocrats is a bonus. But the stakes rise, the countdown starts, and tension builds as a goddess curses Vanja, the zealous young investigator Junior Prefect Emeric Conrad arrives, and the predatory margrave Adalbrecht returns from battle to rush Gisele into marriage. Irreverent toward immortals and fiercely independent, Vanja must make alliances, apologies, and amends if she wants to survive. Romantic entanglements and malevolent magic complicate matters further. In this vaguely early modern Germanic setting, Vanja and many characters read as White. Pivoting from her innovative Merciful Crow series to retell an often revisited fairy tale, Owen delivers a cynical, sarcastic, devious, damaged, and self-aware antihero, a climactic crime caper, and a twisty legal-political thriller.

A lush and lively adventure replete with romance, revenge, and robbery. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-19190-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy.

The underestimated sister of a soon-to-be queen has her own tale to tell in this companion novel to Levenseller’s The Shadows Between Us (2020).

Nineteen-year-old Chrysantha and her younger sister, Alessandra, who’s the fiancee of the Shadow King, don’t have the best relationship. Chrysantha has always been jealous of how easily Alessandra achieves success, while Alessandra thinks Chrysantha is a fool. For her part, Chrysantha uses this reputation as a facade and a means to an end while she patiently awaits the demise of her lewd—and wealthy—husband, the Duke of Pholios. With Chrysantha’s assistance, the 64-year-old duke dies, allowing his widow to drop the charade and focus on being independent and spending money according to her own whims and desires. That is, until distractingly handsome 18-year-old Eryx Demos arrives, claiming to be her late husband’s heir who’s ready to take control of the estate. Combining her objectives of outshining Alessandra at her royal wedding with enjoying some captivating arm candy and gaining Eryx’s trust in order to stab him in the back, Chrysantha takes up the job of molding Eryx into a proper duke. Chrysantha’s and Eryx’s wickedly charming personalities clash in the most pleasing and seductive ways, so that even though the plot feels repetitive at times, there’s still much to delight in. Chrysantha’s skin is “dark beige”; Eryx is “tanned” and has “tawny-brown hair.”

Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy. (Fantasy romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250840776

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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