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From the House of the Dead Duology series , Vol. 1

Neither spectacular nor unbearable.

Take a dash of The Walking Dead, a soupçon of Game of Thrones, and mix in a ’90s goth.

In the Dominions, smithing makes and breaks nations. Long extinct ghostsmiths raised the dead, recently eradicated ironsmiths mined too deeply and rediscovered those undead revenants, and in the wake of that cataclysm, the bonesmiths, who utilize dead bone to fight the dead, rose. Impetuous Wren, an heir to the House of Bone, makes bad decisions in hopes of holding her father’s attention. As a result, she’s exiled to the Border Wall that holds back the dead—only to make another bad decision and take off without support to rescue a kidnapped prince. Ending up reluctantly allied with (not-so-extinct) ironsmith Julian, Wren becomes wiser and more moderate through the adventure and the tentative slow-growth friendship they share. Julian is also a teen with deep-seated family issues. Their journey uncovers new plots and players in the power dynamics of the Dominions, mostly revealed late in the game and making this feel almost like an extended prologue for the next volume. An overabundance of exposition alongside a lack of nuance in Wren’s characterization don’t do the story any favors, but eventually the original elements pull ahead. This, combined with the lack of resolution, means readers who make it past the slow start will be left with questions that can only be answered by the subsequent volume. Characters are diverse in appearance; race seems immaterial in this world.

Neither spectacular nor unbearable. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: July 25, 2023

ISBN: 9781665910590

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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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

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Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy.

The underestimated sister of a soon-to-be queen has her own tale to tell in this companion novel to Levenseller’s The Shadows Between Us (2020).

Nineteen-year-old Chrysantha and her younger sister, Alessandra, who’s the fiancee of the Shadow King, don’t have the best relationship. Chrysantha has always been jealous of how easily Alessandra achieves success, while Alessandra thinks Chrysantha is a fool. For her part, Chrysantha uses this reputation as a facade and a means to an end while she patiently awaits the demise of her lewd—and wealthy—husband, the Duke of Pholios. With Chrysantha’s assistance, the 64-year-old duke dies, allowing his widow to drop the charade and focus on being independent and spending money according to her own whims and desires. That is, until distractingly handsome 18-year-old Eryx Demos arrives, claiming to be her late husband’s heir who’s ready to take control of the estate. Combining her objectives of outshining Alessandra at her royal wedding with enjoying some captivating arm candy and gaining Eryx’s trust in order to stab him in the back, Chrysantha takes up the job of molding Eryx into a proper duke. Chrysantha’s and Eryx’s wickedly charming personalities clash in the most pleasing and seductive ways, so that even though the plot feels repetitive at times, there’s still much to delight in. Chrysantha’s skin is “dark beige”; Eryx is “tanned” and has “tawny-brown hair.”

Banter and sexual tension abound in this enjoyable enemies-to-lovers fantasy. (Fantasy romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250840776

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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