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From the Remnant Chronicles series , Vol. 2

Despite flaws, solid and absorbing high fantasy, with a sudden breathless hook to the next installment.

Held captive in an enemy land, a princess ricochets among an assassin, a prince, and a barbaric ruler.

As The Kiss of Deception (2014) ended, Princess Lia entered Venda as a prisoner of Kaden, who’d been sent to assassinate her but instead brought her to Venda’s dictator, the Komizar. Whether locked in her room, sneaking through hidden catacombs, or being paraded outdoors by the Komizar, Lia’s never safe. She knows that her beloved Prince Rafe is imprisoned here too, in disguise, and could be killed anytime; the chance Lia will be killed lessens when the Komizar starts using her as a political symbol, but she’s still in danger. Pearson’s plot flows well despite some flowery prose and overexplanations. Themes of bloodshed, hunger, war, and manipulation simmer through several first-person perspectives, and an event near the end packs a wallop. However, for a story emphasizing vengeance, betrayal, and deception, the reveals are lukewarm, unlike the stunningly satisfying ones in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series, while Marie Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy makes meatier fodder of mis/trust, power, manipulation, and enormous stakes. There’s little new here: Lia’s critical role becomes as much about destiny as agency, and stereotypical Romany-esque “vagabonds” teach her about her magical gift.

Despite flaws, solid and absorbing high fantasy, with a sudden breathless hook to the next installment. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9924-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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From the Aurelian Cycle series , Vol. 1

Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes.

What happens to the world after the dust from a revolution has settled?

Friends Annie and Lee were children from very different circles when Atreus killed Lee’s father, dragonlord Leon Stormscourge, ending the uprising on the bloodiest day in Callipolis’ history. For too long the dragonriders held all the power while their people starved and lived in fear. Nine years later, a new generation of dragonriders is emerging, children selected and trained on merit, not bloodlines. Their dragons are finally mature enough for them to compete for Firstrider, a position of power that can give Lee back a small part of what his family lost. However, not only is Lee competing against Annie, but rumors are circulating that some of the royal family have survived and have dragons of their own. Everyone will have to make a choice: Restore the old regime, support the First Protector and the new caste system he created, or look for a new way, no matter what the cost. From the beginning, this book pulls readers in with political intrigue and action. What keeps them invested, however, are the complex relationships between many cast members. Choices are complex, and the consequences for all could be deadly. The world is well fleshed out and believable. Annie and Lee are light skinned; secondary characters are diverse, and race is a nonissue in this world.

Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes. (author’s note) (Fantasy.14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51821-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Several yards short of a touchdown.

A transgender boy starting over at a new school falls hard for a popular cheerleader with a reputation to protect in this debut.

On the first day of senior year, transgender boy Pony locks eyes with cisgender cheerleader Georgia. They both have pasts they want to leave behind. No one at Hillcrest High knows that Pony is transgender, and he intends to keep it that way. Georgia’s last boyfriend shook her trust in boys, and now she’s determined to forget him. As mutual attraction draws them together, Pony and Georgia must decide what they are willing to risk for a relationship. Pony’s best friend, Max, who is also transgender, disapproves of Pony’s choice to live stealth; this disagreement leads to serious conflict in their relationship. Meanwhile, Georgia and Pony behave as if Pony’s trans identity was a secret he was lying to her about rather than private information for him to share of his own volition. The characters only arrive at a hopeful resolution after Pony pays high physical and emotional prices. McSmith places repeated emphasis on the born-in-the-wrong-body narrative when the characters discuss trans identities. Whiteness is situated as the norm, and all main characters are white.

Several yards short of a touchdown. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294317-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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