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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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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Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly...

THE GIVER

From the Giver Quartet series , Vol. 1

In a radical departure from her realistic fiction and comic chronicles of Anastasia, Lowry creates a chilling, tightly controlled future society where all controversy, pain, and choice have been expunged, each childhood year has its privileges and responsibilities, and family members are selected for compatibility.

As Jonas approaches the "Ceremony of Twelve," he wonders what his adult "Assignment" will be. Father, a "Nurturer," cares for "newchildren"; Mother works in the "Department of Justice"; but Jonas's admitted talents suggest no particular calling. In the event, he is named "Receiver," to replace an Elder with a unique function: holding the community's memories—painful, troubling, or prone to lead (like love) to disorder; the Elder ("The Giver") now begins to transfer these memories to Jonas. The process is deeply disturbing; for the first time, Jonas learns about ordinary things like color, the sun, snow, and mountains, as well as love, war, and death: the ceremony known as "release" is revealed to be murder. Horrified, Jonas plots escape to "Elsewhere," a step he believes will return the memories to all the people, but his timing is upset by a decision to release a newchild he has come to love. Ill-equipped, Jonas sets out with the baby on a desperate journey whose enigmatic conclusion resonates with allegory: Jonas may be a Christ figure, but the contrasts here with Christian symbols are also intriguing.

Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly provocative novel. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 978-0-395-64566-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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