THE EMPIRE OF DREAMS

A rewarding stand-alone novel with effortless plotting and deft characterizations.

A foundling orphan girl sets out to prove her worth by joining an elite—and patriarchal—fighting force.

Seventeen-year-old Red Sparkle Stone is about to be adopted by Empress Elisa and Prince Consort Hector of the kingdom of Joya d’Arena and gain everything she always dreamed of: a family and a place in the world. When the adoption petition is denied, blocked by the empress’s political rivals, Red asks to join the Royal Guard, traditionally a male-only institution. Her journey within the Guard is fraught, complicated even further by the news of a potential coup in the works. Carson (Most Wanted, 2018, etc.) returns to her Girl of Fire and Thorns world with a stand-alone novel featuring Red, the enslaved girl rescued by Elisa in The Bitter Kingdom (2013). This novel develops a taut, self-contained, political mystery within the confined quarters of the Guard and the palace, with a few chapters set in the past showing Red’s harrowing, traumatic history. Red’s PTSD is deftly and sympathetically handled and so is her coming-of-age as a capable, truth-speaking woman alongside her equally well-developed brothers in arms. The noticeable absence of other female characters for most of the book is a consequence of setting the story within the confines of a strictly gender binary, male-only Royal Guard. Most characters are brown-skinned.

A rewarding stand-alone novel with effortless plotting and deft characterizations. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-269190-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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