THE QUEEN'S SECRET

Romantic fantasy turns into lovelorn politicking in this duology closer and follow-up to The Queen’s Assassin (2020).

Formerly feisty assassin-in-training Shadow is now Queen Lilac of Montrice, still secretly meeting her lover, Chief Assassin Caledon Holt, while managing to avoid her (nice, hound-loving) husband. But the evil Aphrasian monks are still a threat, and when Cal rides off with attractive apprentice Rhema, 19-year-old Lilac fears she’s lost him. Cal’s adventures take him back to Renovia and to the frightening Aphrasian stronghold of Baer Abbey; Lilac, previously accustomed to a similarly adventurous life, feels increasingly imprisoned in the Montrician castle. While the somewhat flimsy fantasy world offers some decent adventure and intrigue, most of the alternating narrative (Lilac’s in first-person present tense, Cal’s from close third-person) consists of the lovers’ being jealous and angry while circumstances hold them apart while Lilac works much harder to avoid consummating her year-old marriage than she does to govern. Sometimes-awkward writing, usually due to the limitations of present-tense narration, inconsistent characterization, and uneven pacing plague the text. Physical descriptors are few and far between, but the world is established as diverse in terms of race (for example, Lilac’s mother is dark-skinned) and sexuality (Lilac’s aunt is in a same-sex marriage).

Purely for completists. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-51594-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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