A promising retelling that misses the magical mark.

ROMANOV

A fantasy that reimagines the fate of Anastasia Romanov and her family.

It's 1918, and Nastya and her family are in exile in Tobolsk, Russia. With no clue as to what the family’s fate will be, her Papa, the deposed Tsar Nikolai, gives Nastya the mission of finding the magical matryoshka doll created by Vasily Dochkin, “Russia’s most respected and skilled spell master,” which could save the family. The family is relocated to Ekaterinburg, and, throughout their confinement, Nastya’s Papa stresses the importance of kindness and forgiving their captors. She commits to following his example by befriending one of the Bolshevik guards watching the family, Zash, a young man from an unspecified semi-nomadic Siberian ethnic group who has his own reasons for hating the Romanovs. As the Romanov family adjusts to their new life, Nastya and Zash grow closer even though they know only pain can come of their relationship. Then the unimaginable happens—and Nastya must find a way to save her family. Brandes’ (Fawkes, 2018, etc.) accuracy in this retelling—the majority of the characters and events are true—and the bits of Russian sprinkled throughout are highlights. However, the second half of Nastya’s story is a noticeable departure from the well-paced beginning; it feels almost like a separate story with a forced romance and a focus on Nastya’s internal turmoil.

A promising retelling that misses the magical mark. (author’s notes, discussion questions) (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7852-1724-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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