A smart and snarky finale.

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VICTORIES

From the Shadow Grail series , Vol. 4

Spirit White and her mage schoolmates prepare for a battle royal in this energetic series ender.

Spirit and her friends, Burke, Loch and Addie, escaped the deadly school dance at Oakhurst Academy, but they lost their friend Muirin in the process. After a brief respite, an uninformative conversation with an incorporeal Merlin and the anticlimactic discovery of the Hallows—Arthurian, not Deathly—the teens dutifully troop back to Oakhurst to rescue the other students and prevent Mordred from starting a nuclear war and establishing his medieval empire atop the radioactive ruins. As Reincarnates of King Arthur’s courtiers, Spirit and her friends find both strength and sorrow in the returning memories of their former lives and liaisons. Thrust into responsibility by the convenient absence of adults—as the students were orphaned through the machinations of the Shadow Knights and abused by their teachers—but equipped with magical powers, combat training and newly accessed Arthurian memories, the teens dive back into battle. Exposition is lengthy and the mythology, muddled, and the dialogue swings erratically between modern teenspeak and “High Forsoothly.” The superpowered-teens-and-secret-school thing has been done before, but Lackey and Edghill (Sacrifices, 2013, etc.) save this sequel from stereotype through snappy ripostes, abundant pop-culture references and a strong ensemble.

A smart and snarky finale. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2826-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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