Like a Rick Riordan–Terry Pratchett mashup, this series debut blends philosophy (free will, destiny, faith), humor,...

FREYA

The sinister Finemdi Corp. accumulates deities, securing their cooperation by promising them worshipers; the Norse goddess of love, war, and magic wants to know why.

For several restful decades, Freya’s kept a low profile as Sara Vanadi, Florida mental hospital inmate, until she’s tracked down and outed by a Finemdi recruiter. A healthy white teen in appearance, Sara has weakened over the past millennium (human belief created deities; as it diminishes, so do they). Aided by Nathan, a human bystander (also white) and soon her willing worshiper, she evades capture. The two rent an apartment, Nathan assuming housekeeping duties while Sara finds employment as Cinderella in the Magic Kingdom, where little princess wannabes strengthen her with the power of their belief. Hounded by Finemdi, she agrees to work for them, hoping to learn more, and is horrified: “hybridizing” (think human-immortal GMO) produces demigods; deity powers are brutally extracted. Determined to fight back, Sara recruits three Hawaiian goddesses to help. Sara’s funny and smart, with a curvy hourglass figure that necessitates alterations to her waif-sized princess attire. Unapologetically fond of fashion and hearty of appetite, she’s a poster child for self-acceptance—proud of her strengths, acknowledging her weaknesses, and moving on.

Like a Rick Riordan–Terry Pratchett mashup, this series debut blends philosophy (free will, destiny, faith), humor, multidimensional characters, and a fast-moving, well-constructed plot into a compulsively entertaining read. (Fantasy. 15-18)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-08817-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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