An adventurous and relevant fantasy that strives for gold but settles, in the end, for silver.

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THE GILDED ONES

From the Deathless series , Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Deka seeks acceptance and absolution.

Every year adolescent girls in the patriarchal kingdom of Otera prepare for the Ritual of Purity that determines whether they can join their communities as pure-blooded women or be cast out and branded impure monsters. Brown-skinned, gray-eyed Deka yearns to prove she belongs, but when her blood runs gold, she’s revealed to be an alaki—a near-immortal woman warrior—and is carted away to become the front line of defense for the people who’ve discarded her. With measured focus, debut author Forna creates a provocative world filled with fantastical creatures, centuries-old divine conflict, and overt feminist messaging around gender inequity and “purity.” Also compelling is Forna’s ability to capture feelings tugging on the consciences of many, telling them they are unworthy of life, liberty, and unconditional love because of who they are. The character development is a bit superficial, unfurling quickly with movie montage–like speed. There is celebration of diverse body types, some peripheral queer representation, and ethnic diversity that roughly correlates with the real world (e.g. a character called Li is from the East, and Northerners have pink skin and blond hair). The plot-twist climax is hinted at throughout the book, held just out of reach until the pieces fall neatly together. Unfortunately, the energy then peters out for the falling action and epilogue.

An adventurous and relevant fantasy that strives for gold but settles, in the end, for silver. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984848-69-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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

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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