Inventive and entertaining.

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STORM SIREN

From the Storm Siren series , Vol. 1

A slave girl struggles to control her supernatural storm-bringing power in this series opener.

Seventeen-year-old Nym causes lightning strikes that kill those who make her angry, but they also inadvertently kill innocents. Adora, a powerful noblewoman in the kingdom of Faelen, witnesses Nym’s power and buys her for use as a weapon in the ongoing war against Bron, which Faelen stands in imminent danger of losing. Even as Nym submits to her enslaved status, she remains defiant, especially when Adora orders her to work with a handsome trainer, Eogan, to learn to control herself. She and Colin, a boy who can cause earthquakes, work together. Nym also forms an attachment with Colin’s blind sister, Breck, working as a servant in Adora’s household. All of these characters come together in the final (for this installment) battle to save Faelen and one another. Weber builds a fascinating and believable fantasy world, inventing epithets (“Teeth of a pig, what the litches was that?”) and combining medieval and modern elements (a feudal system and antibiotics, for instance). Her characters’ paranormal powers work well, and she weaves in just enough mystery about each character that they all remain interesting. The story ends with a gutsy surprise that many readers will find unusual in this genre and that leaves them poised for the next volume.

Inventive and entertaining. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4016-9034-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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For readers who can’t get enough of strong female protagonists in unusual settings.

FABLE

From the Fable series , Vol. 1

In a dark maritime fantasy, the first of a projected duology, a young woman finds home and family on a ship full of secrets.

Four years ago, 14-year-old Fable was marooned on a notorious island of thieves. Now the auburn-haired diver has managed to get onboard the Marigold to search for Saint, the father who abandoned her. But Saint is a powerful, sinister figure among the sea traders; and in the Narrows, the most important rule is to trust no one. The narrative excels in the immersive world conjured by Fable’s first-person voice, crammed with nautical lore and rich in sensory details. The cramped geography creates a grim, violent, and cruel society, and it’s no surprise that Fable is equally wary and hard. Nonetheless, her seafaring competence and touch of magic earn her a place among the Marigold’s crew. Even more compelling is her fraught, complicated relationship with Saint and the memory of her fey, charismatic mother, although the frequent flashbacks can be disorienting. More unfortunate is the uneven pacing, for the most part glacially slow—despite the frequent action-packed set pieces, nothing actually seems to happen for over 200 pages—until a rushed climax and a romance that comes from nowhere lead to a forced-feeling cliffhanger. Fable is white, and secondary characters have a range of skin tones

For readers who can’t get enough of strong female protagonists in unusual settings. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25436-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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