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PAINTED DEVILS

Another winding tale of intrigue and adventures that leans heavily on the heart.

Vanja is back in the sequel to Owen’s Little Thieves (2021), and she has traded her title of thief for leader of a small-town cult.

Despite saving Minkja, gaining the affection of Junior Prefect Emeric Conrad, and reassuming her own identity, Vanja still doubts she is good enough. One particularly bleak, drunken night, after Vanja appropriates a local legend to gain assistance in recovering her dropped rubies, she is named the prophet of the Scarlet Maiden. When Emeric shows up to investigate reports of a cult, he is surprised to discover Vanja at its center. And soon after he arrives, the Scarlet Maiden herself appears and claims Emeric as her servant and sacrifice. Vanja and Emeric set out to discover whether the Scarlet Maiden is a true Low God and attempt to save Emeric from her claim. Along the way, Vanja searches for her family and learns more about love as she grows closer to Emeric and faces the possibility of losing him. Struggles with identity and feelings of inadequacy are handled with an honest, thoughtful hand, while moments of humor punctuate the heavier subject matter. Owen's masterful storytelling skills are evident in the balancing of Vanja's self-doubt and vulnerability as well as the sex, romance, humor, and adventure that keep the narrative moving. The author's atmospheric black-and-white woodblock-style illustrations appear throughout.

Another winding tale of intrigue and adventures that leans heavily on the heart. (content warnings) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9781250831163

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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POWERLESS

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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CHILDREN OF ANGUISH AND ANARCHY

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 3

A thrilling, climactic storm with an abrupt conclusion.

In this much-anticipated trilogy closer following 2019’s Children of Virtue and Vengeance, an enemy from a land across the sea carries out conquests to fulfill a prophecy that threatens the entire world.

The war between the maji and the crown of Orïsha ends when the Skulls, a tribe of masked, pale-skinned invaders, interrupt the pivotal battle, abducting Zélie, Tzain, Amari, Inan, and dozens of maji from their homeland. Caged on a ship and cut off from their magic, they have no choice but to set aside their bitterness and distrust to fight for their freedom. Ruthless and empowered by the volatile magic of bloodmetal weapons, the Skulls hunt for Zélie, “a girl with the blood of the sun,” at the command of their king, Baldyr, who prepares for his ascension to godhood during the Blood Moon. As much as she longs to return home, visions and an intertwined fate pull Zélie, along with her companions, to the land of New Gaīa in search of a girl with russet-brown skin and eyes that glitter like diamonds. United goals, fresh conflict, and impending doom provide invigorating gusts of momentum that push the story out of the doldrums of the previous book. On its own, this installment is a suspenseful and compelling expansion of the world, but as a series finale, the conflict seems disconnected from the first two books, and the resolution feels rushed.

A thrilling, climactic storm with an abrupt conclusion. (guide to clans) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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