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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The plotting is powerful enough to carry most readers past flaws and into the next book in the series.

SHADOW AND BONE

From the Grisha Trilogy series , Vol. 1

In a Russian-inflected fantasy world, an orphan comes into immense power and, with it, danger.

When the Grisha came to test inseparable friends Alina and Malyen, neither showed any aptitude for the Small Science. Years later, they are in the army, Alina in the cartographer corps and Mal a tracker. They are escorting the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha in the land, across the terrifying Shadow Fold that divides Ravka’s heart from its coast. An attack by the terrifying volcra brings forth a power Alina never knew she had: She is a Sun Summoner. The charismatic, quartz-eyed Darkling takes her to the palace to learn the art of the Etherealki, and Mal is left behind. Bardugo allows the details of Grisha magic to unfold with limited exposition, using Alina's ignorance for readers' benefit. While Alina's training borrows familiar tropes (outlander combat teacher, wizened-crone magic instructor, friends and enemies among her peers), readers will nevertheless cheer her progress. But the worldbuilding is continually undercut by clunky colloquialisms; such phrases as "Well, that's completely creepy" and "It's okay" yank readers out of this carefully constructed, mostly preindustrial world. Readers may also be troubled by the sexualization of power found in its pages.

The plotting is powerful enough to carry most readers past flaws and into the next book in the series. (classification of Grisha types, map [not seen]) (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9459-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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An accomplished, exciting debut.

ALL THE STARS AND TEETH

From the All the Stars and Teeth series , Vol. 1

A princess embarks on a dangerous path to the throne.

In the island kingdom of Visidia, where each person is allowed just one type of magic, only the members of the royal Montara family have the ability to wield the dangerous soul magic. Princess Amora is next in line to be High Animancer, but she must first prove to her people that she is powerful enough to use her magic to protect them. But something goes terribly wrong during a critical public ceremony, and Amora runs away with dashing pirate Bastian, whose rescue comes with a price: She must help him recover his own magic, stolen away by a dangerous man leading a growing rebellion that could bring down the whole kingdom. Debut author Grace wields her own magic with a skillful balancing act between high-stakes adventure (here there be monsters, mermaids, and high-seas shenanigans), bloody fantasy, and character development in a story with a lovable found family at its core. Amora yearns for adventure just as she welcomes her right to command her kingdom; her ferocious sense of duty and legitimate need to do good shine through. The novel’s further unravelling of dark secrets long kept comes with a recognized need for accountability and making amends which adds a thoughtful extra layer to the rich worldbuilding. Amora has copper-brown skin and dark, curly hair; other characters have a range of skin tones in this diverse world.

An accomplished, exciting debut. (guide to the kingdom) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30778-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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