For those readers (and they are legion) who find emotional depth in a miserable wallow.

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SPLENDOR AND SPARK

From the Shimmer and Burn series , Vol. 2

Everything goes from horribler to horriblest for Faris Locke in this sequel to Shimmer and Burn (2017).

The title begins in media res, with her beloved North—now revealed as the bastard Prince Corbin, doomed to kill his insane father in order to halt the magical plague rotting Avinea—contracting a political marriage with the vicious Princess Bryn, who ensorcelled Faris in exchange for the latter’s little sister, Cadence. Alas, Cadence now loathes Faris, as does everybody else except the inexplicably smitten North. With Faris and North slowly dying from corrupted magic, there’s only time for one last desperate gamble….This convoluted tangle of intrigues and counterintrigues, reluctant alliances and sudden betrayals unspools against a confusing backdrop constructed from intriguing details that don’t quite gel. A plethora of unlikable characters, all apparently defaulting to white, range from nobly suffering to annoyingly bratty to actively sociopathic. Faris, narrating in an awkwardly poetic present tense, remains foolishly headstrong and mired in self-hatred, but her flat despair here also inspires determination and even kindness. Major plot arcs and themes from the previous entry are hand-waved away or simply dropped, while others are introduced only to be abandoned. Still, the rapid pace carries the story through the unrelenting dreariness and gore until everything suddenly explodes in a blood-splattered crescendo.

For those readers (and they are legion) who find emotional depth in a miserable wallow. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7202-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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