Excruciating, cathartic, and triumphant.

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LATCHKEY

From the Archivist Wasp series , Vol. 2

Near-future science-fiction crimes bleed into dystopian horror centuries later in a wildly imaginative genre-hybrid sequel to Archivist Wasp (2015).

For three years, Isabel (ex-Archivist and no longer going by “Wasp”) and the former shrine girls have gradually created a home; now savage invaders force them to fight to defend it. While hiding refugees in tunnels buried since the Before, Isabel again encounters the ghosts of a nameless, long-dead supersoldier and his partner. Instead of passing peacefully on to the afterlife, the ghosts are seeking their lost memories of the Latchkey Project that engineered them, secrets that could guarantee Isabel’s future…or destroy it. Less mythic in tone and more conventional in structure than the first, this title nonetheless delivers gripping action while deepening mysteries in restrained prose studded with flashes of vulgar brutality and startling poetry. Isabel’s post-apocalyptic world, with all its graphic violence and cruelty, still exhibits solidarity, tenderness, and joy. Allusions to names of varying ethnicities and a range of skin tones indicate an unobtrusive diversity. The emotional core of the story resides in the magnificently understated relationship between damaged, heartsick Isabel and the arrogant yet oddly fragile ghost, a kinship forged from their shared raw courage, ferocious loyalty, and bone-deep integrity, punctuated by an uncertain, heart-piercing vulnerability. Although this narrative provides satisfying closure, readers will hope for more about these unlikely allies.

Excruciating, cathartic, and triumphant. (Science fiction/horror. 12-adult)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9889124-8-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mythic Delirium

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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A searing portrayal of a teen navigating her dysfunctional family that leaves readers hopeful.

A LIFE, REDEFINED

From the Rowan Slone series , Vol. 1

Rowan Slone’s future looks promising, offering a much-needed escape from her small town in Appalachia.

But with new secrets revealed about her family and past, she must move forward or risk being pulled back into the very darkness she is trying to escape. A junior in high school, Rowan is on track to graduate and go to college, and she dreams of eventually becoming a veterinarian. The death of her baby brother 7 years ago sent her into a spiral of self-harm, but she managed to stop cutting herself a few years ago. Things start to look up when she is paired with her longtime crush, Mike Anderson, for their biology project. There are hints of a budding romance between the two, and Mike even asks her to prom. However, life at home takes a turn for the worse, and Rowan finds herself reaching for a razor. With everything she has suffered, readers will find themselves cheering for Rowan, hoping she makes it through. Meyer (The Reformation of Marli Meade, 2018, etc.) astutely captures the horrors of self-harm and domestic violence. However, the story would have benefited from more character development of the protagonist’s family and other secondary characters. All main characters are assumed to be white; Rowan’s father’s racism is explored to some degree.

A searing portrayal of a teen navigating her dysfunctional family that leaves readers hopeful. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64397-012-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: BHC Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A clever, feel-good opening to a fantasy series with a tenacious heroine.

Girls Can't Be Knights

From the Spirit Knights series , Vol. 1

The start of a new YA series features a teen orphan and a protective brotherhood of Spirit Knights.

Fifteen-year-old Claire Terdan lives in a group foster home in Portland, Oregon. Six years ago, her family died in a house fire, and her only dependable friend since has been a boy her age named Drew. One day in school, after she punches a bully who mocks her, the principal suspends her for a day. She sneaks out of school and into town only to be accosted by several cats and dogs. Meanwhile, at the nearby Oregon Historical Society, a man named Justin arrives on his white horse, Tariel. He’s there, dressed in his green Spirit Knight armor, to borrow (some might say steal) an antique hat that has sentimental meaning to his mentor, Kurt. When he meets Claire, he offers her a ride home. Telling Justin she doesn’t have one, Claire ends up with him in Vancouver, Washington, at his family’s farm. There she meets his wife and two young daughters and eventually learns about the Palace, a magical, dormitory-style structure where Spirit Knights—a brotherhood that protects the world from ghostly, vengeful Phasms—dwell. Justin isn’t sure why Claire seems familiar until he learns that she’s the daughter of a dead Knight named Mark. French (Superheroes in Denim, 2016, etc.) establishes a crafty new fantasy series with a light smattering of genre fixtures, including talking animals, an enchanted pendant, and the firmly held belief that “Girls can’t be Knights.” Most of the narrative drama comes from grounded conflicts that teens should relate to, like Claire’s attraction to the older Justin and the lousy conditions of the “sanitized prison” that is her group home. Later scenes in which a detective named Avery physically assaults Claire are not for the faint-hearted. The upside for the tale’s heroine is that Justin and his family turn out to be perfect for her; despite early misgivings about them, she decides to “admire the example they set and be grateful for it.” The story should provide a heartwarming boost to anyone in a tough situation.

A clever, feel-good opening to a fantasy series with a tenacious heroine.

Pub Date: June 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-68063-030-5

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Myrddin Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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