Pleasantly formulaic light fantasy with an appealingly strong female lead.

THE QUEEN'S ASSASSIN

From the Queen's Secret series , Vol. 1

A young woman, raised in obscurity and trained in magic, rescues a handsome boy and sets off to save her kingdom in this duology opener.

In a kingdom where the only magical knowledge to escape centuries of tyrannical rule belongs to women, Shadow wants to go on adventures. She’s connected to both the palace and the Guild, a group of mostly female magic-wielding assassins and adventurers. Unfortunately, her mother has just recalled her to court, where she’ll be expected to wear fancy gowns and jewels and maybe be married off. Rebellious Shadow runs off to rescue Caledon Holt, the Queen’s Assassin, who is bound to the Queen until he finds the hidden magic scrolls. Chapters alternate between Cal’s and Shadow’s perspectives as the pair reluctantly partner up to infiltrate a neighboring kingdom and root out the conspiracy trying to destroy Renovia. From perpetual frustration to all-in love, this is more about the romance than the world, although the world—with strong women, marriage equality, and characters of varying skin tones—certainly has its strengths, lightly realized though it is. This is a classic plucky heroine fantasy in the vein of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore, with some modern tweaks.

Pleasantly formulaic light fantasy with an appealingly strong female lead. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51591-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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