Confusing worldbuilding, but it’s nice to see the emotional conflicts playing out mostly in a male lead.

A magical assassin for hire is forced into taking a gig as a bodyguard for the daughter of a man he killed; snogging ensues.

As he closes in on 20, orphan Mars Darksvane has already made kills aplenty, but his latest two—one being his best friend and the other an older nobleman who turned out, just like him, to be a secret adept of blood magic—have left him tortured with guilt. It is considerably compounded when he is pressed into guarding Fura Torvald, the latter’s grieving daughter. Fura, along with being beautiful and a dab hand at swordplay, is secretly working with brainier lifelong companion and lady’s maid Katrìn Darksdòttra to continue her beloved father’s research into destroying the poisonous Ice that powers another (more common) flavor of magic to the detriment of all but the oligarchic realm’s leading families. As Fura’s haughty reserve slowly melts, along with wrestling with his inner angst, Mars finds himself getting closer to Katrìn too. Various intrigues lead to a full slate of murders, fights, flights, betrayals, revelations, clinches, all leading to, in a credibility challenging climax, forgiveness in the midst of triangular unions both mystical and physical. The resolution is tidy, and while neither the magic nor the romantic entanglement makes much sense, readers may be willing to go with the flow. The central cast in this Scandinavian-inflected fantasy world reads White.

Confusing worldbuilding, but it’s nice to see the emotional conflicts playing out mostly in a male lead. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-305783-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022


From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023


Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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