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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more