Difficult, provocative, and unforgettable—the most dangerous kind of fiction.

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ARCHIVIST WASP

A ravishing, profane, and bittersweet post-apocalyptic bildungsroman transcends genre into myth.

In a desolate future, young girls marked by the goddess Catchkeep fight to the death to become Archivist, needed but feared and shunned for her sacred duty to trap, interrogate, and dispatch ghosts. After three years as Archivist, Wasp is weary of killing, of loneliness, of hunger, of cruelty, of despair, so she barters with a supersoldier’s ghost to find his long-dead partner in exchange for a chance at escape. But looking for answers in the land of the dead only reveals that everything Wasp knew was a lie. Equal parts dark fantasy, science fiction, and fable, Wasp’s story is structured as a classic hero’s journey. Her bleak and brutal world, limned with the sparest of detail, forges her character: stoic, cynical, with burning compassion at the core; in contrast, the rich and mosaic (if capricious and violent) underworld overflows with symbol and metaphor that tease at deeper meanings never made fully explicit. Meanwhile, the nameless ghost’s history, told through disconnected snatches of memory, encompasses heroism, abuse, friendship, and betrayal in a tragedy only redeemed by the heart-rending convergence of their separate narratives. Names (and their absence) form a constant leitmotif, as identity is transformed by the act of claiming it.

Difficult, provocative, and unforgettable—the most dangerous kind of fiction. (Science fiction/fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61873-097-8

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Big Mouth House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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