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

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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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Will cast a spell on romance fans.

SERPENT & DOVE

From the Serpent & Dove series , Vol. 1

A stealth witch and a devout witch hunter are forced to marry.

In this French-flavored fantasy world, witches are hunted down by the Church’s Chasseurs and burned at the stake; they retaliate against this genocidal crusade through vicious terrorist attacks. Thief Louise le Blanc wants none of that—she’s left her witch life behind. But Lou ends up on Chasseur captain Reid Diggory’s radar when a heist goes bad; his attempt to catch her lands them in a situation so compromising that the archbishop suggests marriage to save face. Lou’s initial priority is self-protection—wanting to avoid both fallout from the heist and a dangerous figure from her past—and she’s fine with using Reid. The slow-burn, opposites-attract romance between crass, irreverent Lou and prim and proper Reid gets very hot and sexy once it ignites. Lou sees firsthand the damages some witches do to innocents, has her presumptions about individual Chasseurs challenged, and also sees up close the horrors Chasseurs perpetrate. Despite occasional pacing hiccups and an easily guessed twist, the secondary characters will charm readers, and the story picks up when Lou’s past dangerously catches up to her, revealing the true stakes. Though at heart a romance, rich second-tier characters round out the shades-of-gray, morality-and-empathy themes. Witches, Chasseurs, and some secondary characters come in all colors; the leads appear white. The ending screams sequel.

Will cast a spell on romance fans. (Fantasy. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-287802-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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