An exciting, inventive finale.

KINGSHACKLE

From the The Conjurer Fellstone series , Vol. 3

In the conclusion to Kaptanoglu’s YA fantasy trilogy, conjurer Tessa Skye must defeat a diabolical, seemingly immortal ruler.

Tessa is searching for the boy she loves, Ash Kemp, who has inexplicably vanished. Some of the enemies the two have faced are dead, but others, like Tessa’s evil half sister, Ratcher, continue to be a threat. The greatest menace to Wilderyn, however, is King Slayert, a powerful conjurer leading a cursed army. Apparently, Slayert possesses the Kingshackle, a gold band that renders him invincible. But anyone who completes “the King’s Challenge” can take the Kingshackle from him. Tessa gets news that Ash, who’d fought during Slayert’s assault against the city of Blackgrove, is now the wicked king’s captive. She hopes to save Ash by traveling to Slayert’s fortress, which is also where one can undertake the King’s Challenge. Tessa fortunately has her windrider, an amulet that turns her into a sparrow. But she strives to find her “bloodbeast” (an animal she can change into at will) to battle Slayert’s—reputedly a dragon. Kaptanoglu’s masterful pacing makes her novel a quick read. The story takes readers through a bevy of betrayals, startling deaths, and exhilarating action, with striking villains, like boarmen and Snakeskins. While the young heroine is the series’ highlight, there are myriad characters who make an impression. Blackgrove’s Queen Sage, for example, is strong but perpetually drunk, and her brother, Lord Queshire, who sometimes refers to himself in the third person, wants to surrender immediately to Slayert’s army. Though the ending provides the trilogy with a resolution, a few characters’ fates remain in question. As such, Kaptanoglu could easily return to her sublime world—and hopefully will.

An exciting, inventive finale. (acknowledgements, about the author)

Pub Date: July 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9994492-6-4

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Marjory Kaptanoglu

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2020

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A second volume that sets the scene for more to come.

DEFEND THE DAWN

From the Defy the Night series , Vol. 2

As the Moonflower supply in Kandala dwindles, a ship arrives with a trade opportunity in this follow-up to Defy the Night (2021).

Moonflowers are critical for an elixir that cures the fever sickness. Prior to his assassination, King Lucas of Kandala sent a spy to neighboring Ostriary, whose connection with Kandala had been severed. Now Capt. Rian Blakemore arrives in Kandala claiming to be the spy’s son, offering Moonflowers in exchange for steel, and inviting a delegation to meet with the Ostrian king. Tessa Cade, outlaw-turned–royal apothecary, is eager to go. Since the invasion of the Royal Sector, Kandala’s King Harristan has attempted to negotiate better distribution of Moonflower petals to the poorer districts, but tension among the rebels, consuls, and royals has stalled progress. An alternate supply of Moonflowers would buy time for Tessa to find another cure. Her hope is countered by the cynicism of the King’s Justice, Prince Corrick. Nevertheless, he boards Blakemore’s ship along with Tessa and rebel leader Lochlan Cresswell. As Tessa and Corrick try to discern hidden motives and a possible trap, they reexamine their relationship, which gets tested by the mysterious captain. Chapters told in alternating perspectives draw out the plot at a measured pace, ending with a series of shocking revelations. The structure results in introspective accounts following different concurrent events, slowing the story’s forward momentum. Characters have varying skin tones.

A second volume that sets the scene for more to come. (map, cast of characters) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5476-1007-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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