Readers looking for less exposition and more action in their supernatural fiction might be disappointed, especially by the...

SHADES OF DARKNESS

From the Ravenborn series , Vol. 1

Something terrible happened to Kaira—something so awful that she banished herself.

Islington Arts Academy, a high school for gifted students nestled in the north woods of Michigan, gives Kaira the chance to start over. She wants to forget the past, work on her thesis, and spend as much time as possible with Ethan, her best friend, before senior year ends. Then one student dies, followed by another. The deaths are labeled suicides. But Kaira never ignores an omen, and the crows taking over campus are proof that something sinister from her past has followed her into the present. The novel’s haunting location and use of mythology lead readers to believe that something superbly supernatural is going to occur. However, the story takes too long to arrive at the action, and long portions of the novel are expository passages about Kaira’s past and her odd, flirtatious relationship with Ethan, who is gay. The diverse cast is worth noting, and it’s almost impossible for readers not to identify with one character or another—even if most of the cast comes across as slightly pretentious. Kaira’s facile self-description as an “unknown blend of Native American bloodlines” seems unconvincing given the importance of specific heritage to tribal benefits.

Readers looking for less exposition and more action in their supernatural fiction might be disappointed, especially by the book’s sequel-bait cliffhanger ending. (Suspense. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3257-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A worthy successor to an explosive debut.

BLOODMARKED

From the Legendborn series , Vol. 2

After Awakening the dormant spirit of her ancestor King Arthur Pendragon, almost-17-year-old Briana Matthews must fight to learn and control her magical inheritances.

As a Black person who also possesses the ability to use Root, a form of magic borrowed from deceased practitioners and passed down to her through her mother’s family, Bree is unique in the Line of Pendragon. It is through blood and violence that Bree’s magical abilities intertwined—both those from Arthur’s Welsh origins and from her family’s Bloodcraft originating during chattel slavery in the American South. Together they have turned her into one of the most powerful people either Line has ever known. The intricacies of her navigation of her new powers are at the heart of this sequel to Legendborn (2020), especially as Bree balances the knowledge that her Blackness creates a critical distance between her and the racist people she is sworn to protect as the king of all Legendborns. The plot is complex, and the morsels of information that help fill in the gaps of knowledge don’t always feel fully formed, which may leave readers confused as they try to keep up with the new powers and beings that are presented. Still, there are important, if hard to read, references, for example, when Bree is kidnapped and experimented on by an all-White council, a turn of events that reflects Deonn’s commitment to presenting unflinching truths about the cyclical insidiousness of racism.

A worthy successor to an explosive debut. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4163-7

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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