Grounded, likable characters with complex emotions anchor this excellent series installment.

GRAVENWOOD

BOOK TWO

Three heroes seek an artifact that will reverse the effects of harmful magic in this medieval YA fantasy sequel.

Following the events of Dreadmarrow Thief (2017), teenage Tessa Skye of Sorrenwood is under a spell of subservience and engaged to Lord Turth of Turthville as the new Lady of Fellstone Castle, where she now lives. Meanwhile, her friend Calder Osric lives with and watches over Tessa’s mother, Faline, outside the castle; she still believes herself to be a sparrow after having used the windrider amulet to change between human and bird forms. When Tessa stops visiting her mom—and doesn’t invite her to the wedding—Calder sneaks into Fellstone to investigate. He convinces the sexton’s son, Ash Kemp, who loves Tessa dearly, to help him break Turth’s hold on the girl. A blow to the head frees her, and the three ride to Blackgrove to ask the Conjurer Lord Queshire for assistance in opening the locked Conjurer’s Book of Incantations. The book, Tessa hopes, contains a way to cure her mother. In Blackgrove, Queshire instructs them to find the Gravenwood, an engraved tablet that can “undo the effects of a magical spell” and allow “someone with no conjuring ability to steal the powers of a conjurer.” Tessa agrees on the condition that Queshire train her in conjuring—and therefore the manipulative statesman has the desperate heroes right where he wants them. After a brief setup, Kaptanoglu puts her heroes straight through the wringer in this sequel; Tessa, Calder, and Ash are later separated and must survive imprisonment, pirates, and conniving relatives. Ash's and Calder’s chapters are written in the third person, but it’s Tessa’s first-person chapters that truly shine. While she’s under the spell, for instance, she notes at dinner that Turth’s “scent was intoxicating, though the nearby platter of bacon might’ve had something to do with it.” Calder faces a deep emotional quandary because he fears that Faline won’t need him once she’s cured. An eleventh-hour twist emphasizes the elegance of Kaptanoglu’s plotting, and the final line will make readers eager for the next volume.

Grounded, likable characters with complex emotions anchor this excellent series installment.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9994492-4-0

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Scheming and action carry readers at a breathless pace to an end that may surprise them and will definitely leave them...

SIEGE AND STORM

From the Grisha Trilogy series , Vol. 2

The Grisha Trilogy turns from bildungsroman to political thriller in its second installment.

Sun Summoner Alina and former Ravkan army tracker Mal, once her childhood friend and now her would-be love, are on the run. All they want is to put Ravka and the megalomaniacal Darkling far behind them. Alas, this is not to be. Captured by the Darkling and forced onto a ship captained by the notorious pirate Sturmhond, they find themselves in pursuit of the second of three magical amplifiers that will make Alina powerful beyond belief—and bind her ever-closer to the ancient, evil Darkling. Sturmhond has an unexpected agenda of his own, though, and turns on the Darkling. Darkling temporarily thwarted, Alina and Mal find themselves back in Ravka’s capital as part of the ailing king’s younger son’s attempt to find his way to the throne. Bardugo’s sophomore effort smooths out many of the rookie wrinkles that marred Shadow and Bone (2012); Alina’s wry voice does not interfere with worldbuilding, instead keeping readers immersed in the plot. Characters are rich and complex, particularly the Peter the Great–like younger prince and Alina herself, beset by competing claims and desires. Is she Mal’s lover? Prince Nikolai’s pawn? Commander of the Grisha Second Army? Saint?

Scheming and action carry readers at a breathless pace to an end that may surprise them and will definitely leave them panting for the series’ conclusion . (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: June 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9460-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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