Moody, ponderous, and baroque; a good choice for readers with Gothic inclinations.

THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL

In a dark atmospheric fantasy debut, one young woman (like so many adolescents) finds her greatest enemy is the monster within.

After twin sisters tragically warped into wraithlike “soul eaters” wreak vengeance upon the adults who betrayed them, 7-year-old Alys and the rest of the surviving children seek refuge with a neighboring village—at the price of cruel servitude to their oppressive Elders. Over the decade that follows, Alys is secretly drawn to The Beast, the mystical spirit of the “fforest” widely deemed the source of all evil. To her horror, she also realizes a growing sense of kinship with the vampiric sisters, even to a compulsion to drain the souls of anyone threatening her. Van Arsdale limns a bleak, doleful world, inspired by medieval Wales, where the “white as snow,” rigid, and puritanical townsfolk contrast negatively with the more ethnically diverse, gender-fluid, and carefree people of the Lakes. Alys’ archetypical hero’s journey meanders at a dreamlike pace: great swathes of earthy quotidian detail are punctuated by set pieces of grotesque horror and brief interludes of beauty, compassion, and perfunctory-feeling romance. Her final confrontation with the sisters (and her own inner demons) occurs in a phantasmagorical climax that is a pure distillation of all that comes before, at once achingly poetic and frustratingly opaque.

Moody, ponderous, and baroque; a good choice for readers with Gothic inclinations. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8841-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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A reimagined folktale as grand as its painted visuals are sublime.

SHUNA'S JOURNEY

A dangerous quest to feed an impoverished land leads to chance encounters and awe-inspiring sights.

Shuna, the prince of a humble, struggling country, acts on the advice of a dying traveler from an Eastern land to seek out seeds that will grow bountiful grains. What he finds is a hostile city built on greed with an active slave trade. After meeting Thea and her little sister, Shuna fights to free them from enslavers. Every scene in this cinematic work stands apart with breathtaking watercolors aided by expert staging and blocking. The sights along Shuna’s journey range from a derelict ship in a treacherous desert to supernatural creatures and settings. The certainty and simplicity of Shuna’s motivations along with Thea’s own narrative arc allow the story to move nimbly from one larger-than-life spectacle to another. The pages read right-to-left manga style, while large panels and minimal dialogue create an immediate, immersive experience for readers. The narration sits outside or along the edges of panels, allowing the lush visuals maximum room to impress. Afterwords from the author and translator describe the story’s roots in a Tibetan folktale as well as comparisons to Miyazaki’s later animated works; this story, translated from Japanese, was originally published in Japan in 1983 before Miyazaki rose to fame with Studio Ghibli. The story’s cultural origins are cued through characters’ garb and other visual elements.

A reimagined folktale as grand as its painted visuals are sublime. (Graphic fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-84652-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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