An enjoyable thriller with an intriguing, relatable protagonist.

CALCULATED

A high-stakes YA tale of betrayal, revenge, and numbers.

“Josephine. Octavia. Double 8. Mila. Phoenix.” Josephine Rivers had so many names in the last two years that she barely knows who she is anymore. She’s a calculating prodigy with the uncanny ability to look at the world through a purely mathematical lens. After a betrayal by her own family when she’s only 15, she’s kidnapped and taken to China by the sinister Maxima, known as “Madame,” who forces her to use her gift to increase her fortune. This marks the beginning of the protagonist’s arduous tale, which sees her moved around Shanghai’s criminal underground as others exploit her gift. Her only close company is older captive Hong Rui, nicknamed “Red,” whose wisdom and support change how she views her own power and teaches her what she needs to survive. Now she’s 17 and working for a wealthy man whose captivating son Kai starts to chip away at her emotional defenses. She has the fate of the world in her hands, thanks to her unique gifts, but she also craves vengeance against those who’ve wronged her. Can she save the world from a financial collapse and also bring her enemies down? And can she trust Kai enough to let him into her heart? This engaging take on The Count of Monte Cristo, the first in a planned series, is set primarily in Shanghai in the present day but bounces back and forth in time to show Josephine’s long journey toward freedom. Along the way, debut author McBee effectively shows how she goes from being an unwilling pawn to an empowered queen. Jo’s unique way of understanding and interacting with the world informs much of the narrative, and readers will find it compelling yet also easy to visualize. Recurring themes include the opposing forces of revenge and justice, trust and betrayal, hate and love—all of which underscore Jo’s character arc. There’s a general sense of closure in the main storyline, but open questions, and a small cliffhanger, promise more to come.

An enjoyable thriller with an intriguing, relatable protagonist.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953944-50-4

Page Count: 438

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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

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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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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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