A fantasy for thoughtful readers.

THE HEARTWOOD CROWN

From the Sunlit Lands series , Vol. 2

A dying girl, a failing world.

In this sequel to The Crescent Stone (2018), Madeline has returned to Earth still sick after rejecting the Elenil magic that allowed her to breathe freely at the cost of another. However, the crumbling magic system and unfolding secrets draw her back to the Sunlit Lands. Though Madeline is key, the story focuses on Shula Bishara, a Syrian refugee and ex-Elenil soldier; Jason Wu, the boy who pledged never to lie; and Darius Walker, Madeline’s ex and a Black Skull. The main plot points are blatantly laid out—no need to guess who will die at the end—but it is the journey and the choices made along the way that make this story shine. Despite prophecies, fire powers, a magical sword, and the silliness of a kitten-sized rhinoceros, these are sympathetic teens who struggle to make hard decisions in lives complicated by revenge, guilt, and sacrifice. More so than in the previous book, this volume focuses on parallels with current race relations and considers modern history and literature from the viewpoint of the disenfranchised and oppressed. Madeline is white, and there is ethnic diversity in the rest of the cast. Navigating this world and its characters may be daunting for those seeking a quick read, but others will find much to delve into and unpack.

A fantasy for thoughtful readers. (notes, cast of characters, appendix, lexicon, legends, poem, excerpts, stories) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4964-3175-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Wander

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes.

SIX CRIMSON CRANES

From the Six Crimson Cranes series , Vol. 1

Girl meets magic. Hijinks ensue.

Shiori’anma, Princess of Kiata and eldest daughter of Emperor Hanariho, is the intrepid protagonist in this folktale retelling. About to turn 17 and be married off to a third-rank barbarian lord, Shiori desperately looks for ways out of the engagement. Her emerging talents in forbidden magic and a run-in with a young shape-shifting dragon help to pass the time before she is doomed to relocate to the cold North. Things take an even worse turn, however, when she uncovers her stepmother’s secrets. As a consequence, her six brothers are cursed into assuming the form of cranes by day. Shiori is whisked away and coerced into silence, for every word that escapes her lips will mean the death of one of her brothers. She must learn to survive on her own and use her wits and hard-won experience to save both her family and country. Readers here revisit the East Asian–inspired world established in Lim’s The Blood of Stars duology. Despite a few hiccups in the logic of the magic, the author cleverly maintains the basic structure of this well-known European folktale type while weaving in rich elements of Asian mythology, including dragon pearls and the goddess of the moon. The exploration of complicated family dynamics is a particular strength, especially the challenging of the evil stepmother cliché.

Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30091-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit.

THESE HOLLOW VOWS

Brie risks the deadly land of the Fae to save her sister.

Brie doesn’t trust many people other than Jas, her eternally hopeful sister, and Sebastian, mage apprentice and Brie’s secret love (as if she had time for romance). Brie struggles to meet the payments for the magical contracts binding their lives to Madame Vivias, supplementing her cleaning work by stealing from the rich. While the land of Faerie tempts other girls with word of a castle, a lavish ball, and a fae prince seeking a wife, Brie mistrusts the creatures who capitalize on humanity’s greed. When Jas’ contract is sold to the fae, Brie braves the golden Seelie queen’s court, meets the noble Prince Ronan, and travels on to the Unseelie king’s shadow court. In the process she discovers love, historical secrets, atrocities, and her own hidden strength. While many elements regarding the fae and a love triangle will feel familiar to fans of the genre, and the magic could have been more fleshed out, discussions of power, inequity, trust, and hope expand the worldbuilding in refreshing ways. Similarly, consideration of the balance between truth and secrets, lies and stories, is intriguing as it’s applied to characters, relationships, and historical lore. Despite certain predictable reveals, the plot itself, which starts off slowly, picks up and is pleasantly convoluted with multiple satisfying surprises. Major human characters read as White.

An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-38657-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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