It’s considerably more aristocratic and less nuanced than Austen’s middle-class world, but Austenites—especially those whose...

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COURTSHIP & CURSES

Though it bucks the fan-fiction trend of making Jane Austen a character (often of the undead variety), this cheery Regency fantasy qualifies as major homage.

The polio that killed her magic-working mother and sister left Lady Sophie nervous and self-conscious about her withered leg. At least she’s smartly clad for her first London season, thanks to a family friend’s intervention. (Sophie’s ditzy aunts have dreadful views on attire.) At her first ball, Sophie draws the attentions of handsome Peregrine, Lord Woodbridge, who rescues her father from a falling statue. Though her own magic’s been unreliable since her illness, Sophie recognizes its use—this was no accident. At ball after ball, befriended by Peregrine’s impetuous cousin Parthenope, Sophie witnesses “accidents” to War Office leaders tasked with defeating Napoleon, recently escaped from Elba. Overall, the tone is beach-read light. Prejudice upsets Sophie, but status and wealth shield her from disability’s harsher consequences. Peregrine’s rather dull, an amalgam of Austen heroes (Darcy with a dash of Captain Wentworth). Doyle’s gift, on display in earlier historical fantasies (Bewitching Season, 2008, etc.), lies in creating vivid female characters and the bonds between them.

It’s considerably more aristocratic and less nuanced than Austen’s middle-class world, but Austenites—especially those whose favorite scenes involve shopping and balls—won’t mind. (author’s note) (Historical fantasy romance. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9187-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling.

LEGENDBORN

From the Legendborn series , Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Black whiz kid Bree Matthews battles grief and demonic forces on her college campus.

After her mother dies in an accident, Bree begins a residential program for enterprising teens at her mother’s alma mater and, soon after her arrival, witnesses a magical attack that triggers hidden memories about the evening her mother was killed. Haunted by the fact that their final conversation was an argument, Bree begins a redemptive quest to uncover the connection between her mother’s death and the university’s secret society, the Order of the Round Table, joining their ranks as an initiate and unwittingly stumbling into a centuries-old supernatural war. While competing in the tournament that determines entry to the society, Bree discovers the truth about her heretofore unknown magical abilities, unwinding a complex history that showcases the horrors chattel slavery in the American South perpetuates on the descendants of all involved. Push through clunky expositions and choppy transitions that interrupt the cohesion of the text to discover solid character development that brings forward contemporary, thoughtful engagement with the representation, or lack thereof, of race in canonical Arthurian lore and mythologies. Representation of actualized, strong queer characters is organic, not forced, and so are textual conversations around emotional wellness and intergenerational trauma. Well-crafted allusions to established legends and other literary works are delightful easter eggs.

Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling. (author's note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4160-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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