Unpleasant, unlikable and unbalanced.

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UNTHINKABLE

Held captive by the man who killed her lover, psychologically and sexually abused, forced to watch successive generations of young girls treated similarly and then killed: This sounds more ripped from the headlines than fantasy.

Some 400 years ago, Padraig stole Fenella and cursed her family. The curse broken, damaged Fenella wants only to die. But faeries don’t play nice, and Fenella’s release requires three acts of destruction visited upon her family (known and beloved to readers from Impossible, 2008). She is aided by the faerie queen’s brother Ryland (from Extraordinary, 2010), whose wry, amoral observations provide the closest thing to levity here. This should be a rich, nuanced novel: It boasts survivor guilt, impossible situations and the question of what choice means, all set against a backdrop of complex familial relationships and faeries, with the bonus of tying together two previous and well-liked tales. But flat main character Fenella never elicits sympathy, in part because her abuse is talked around more than about, and her awful behavior (arson, attempted murder and kidnapping) will leave readers hard-pressed to root for her. Even the (destined) brewing romance that brings Fenella back to a place of kindness involves Fenella behaving as a sexual predator, and the late-game switch from selfish to selfless motivations can’t redeem the character.

Unpleasant, unlikable and unbalanced. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3373-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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