LOST IN THE LABYRINTH

The legends of Theseus and Icarus are here braided together in a historical novel imagined from the Cretan perspective. The 14-year-old Princess Xenodice keeps herself out of much of the intrigue of the court of Knossos; in this place of seething emotions and barely suppressed resentments she is more than content to be an observer. A loving, if sometimes exasperated sister, she does the bidding of her imperious older sister Ariadne—heir apparent to the throne—but manages to find time for her two pleasures: visiting with the handsome craftsman Icarus in his father’s workshop, and with Asterius, her part-boy, part-bull younger half-brother, in the Bull Pen at the center of the Labyrinth. But then the latest shipment of Athenian slaves arrives. The hairily uncouth Theseus and his vow to kill Asterius precipitate a chain of events that leaves Xenodice herself utterly alone. Kindl (Goose Chase, 2001, etc.) does a good job at imagining the setting, creating out of the wisps of legend and archaeology a fully realized matriarchy (an author’s note explains that this is her own hypothetical leap), a cultural and economic powerhouse that holds itself as vastly superior to the upstart Athens. Xenodice’s narrative, however, is overly formal, resulting in a frequently ponderous tone: “My head drooped; I stared at my feet. Never before had I desired another’s death. But now I was frightened. I did not know the precise nature of the danger, but my forebodings centered around the young Athenian.” Only very rarely is this tone leavened by the wry and clever wit that has marked the author’s previous novels, and although the story is certainly compelling, Xenodice is always somehow at arm’s length from the reader. Worth purchasing for the originality of the perspective and careful realization of the setting, it would do well paired with a new copy of Renault’s The King Must Die (cited as suggested further reading). (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-16684-X

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell...

SIX OF CROWS

Adolescent criminals seek the haul of a lifetime in a fantasyland at the beginning of its industrial age.

The dangerous city of Ketterdam is governed by the Merchant Council, but in reality, large sectors of the city are given over to gangs who run the gambling dens and brothels. The underworld's rising star is 17-year-old Kaz Brekker, known as Dirtyhands for his brutal amorality. Kaz walks with chronic pain from an old injury, but that doesn't stop him from utterly destroying any rivals. When a councilman offers him an unimaginable reward to rescue a kidnapped foreign chemist—30 million kruge!—Kaz knows just the team he needs to assemble. There's Inej, an itinerant acrobat captured by slavers and sold to a brothel, now a spy for Kaz; the Grisha Nina, with the magical ability to calm and heal; Matthias the zealot, hunter of Grishas and caught in a hopeless spiral of love and vengeance with Nina; Wylan, the privileged boy with an engineer's skills; and Jesper, a sharpshooter who keeps flirting with Wylan. Bardugo broadens the universe she created in the Grisha Trilogy, sending her protagonists around countries that resemble post-Renaissance northern Europe, where technology develops in concert with the magic that's both coveted and despised. It’s a highly successful venture, leaving enough open questions to cause readers to eagerly await Volume 2.

Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell into a family . (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-212-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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An intoxicating, tightly plotted feast for the senses with a dramatic cliffhanger.

KINGDOM OF THE WICKED

From the Kingdom of the Wicked series , Vol. 1

A vengeful Sicilian witch forges an unlikely alliance resulting in epic, supernatural consequences.

Eighteen-year-old Emilia di Carlo and her twin sister, Vittoria, have a secret: They are streghe, trained from a young age to use magic. Emilia is as introverted and romantic as her sister is bold and irreverent, but they share a love of good food and a disregard for their grandmother’s warnings about the devil and his brothers. Known as the Malvagi or Wicked, the seven princes of Hell have not been seen in years until tragedy strikes and a foray into forbidden magic accidentally summons the Prince of Wrath: Three witches—including Vittoria—are dead, and Emilia is desperate to avenge her sister and stop the killings. An uneasy truce with Wrath soon blossoms into a tantalizing, dangerous attraction with an uneven power dynamic. Rich worldbuilding constructs a post-unification Kingdom of Italy in which witches, demons, and shape-shifters live—and battle—among oblivious humans in a society strongly influenced by the Catholic brotherhood in its midst. Several significant plot points unfold in a Capuchin monastery and its eerie catacombs, and the brotherhood's conflation of witchcraft with the devil is emphasized throughout. Most characters are cued as White—Emilia and her sister have brown eyes and hair and olive skin—while the dark-haired Wicked have golden skin.

An intoxicating, tightly plotted feast for the senses with a dramatic cliffhanger. (map) (Historical fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-42846-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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