Although it depends not a whit on the previous book, it may well drive new readers to it, so they can spend more time in...


The author of the Beowulf-inspired The Coming of the Dragon (2010) returns to sixth-century Scandinavia to tell the story of one of its minor characters.

At the end of the first book, unlikely hero Rune met his bride-to-be, Hild, a peace offering from the warring Shylfings, on the eve of his coronation. In this companion, Barnhouse goes back in time to tell Hild's story. Niece of the king of the prosperous Shylfings, she is about to take the position of mead-server and hopes to use the ceremonial authority to "weave peace." Her dreams are dashed when, shortly after her first passing of the mead, she has a vision of an assassination attempt on her royal cousin's life—and promptly acts on it, killing a man who has made no hostile move. Disgraced, she becomes her uncle's pawn, shipped off to the lowly Geats to marry their new king. A specialist in Anglo-Saxon literature, the author braids in her knowledge of daily life in the Dark Ages effortlessly, reveling in homely detail. Hild is a satisfyingly complex character, both committed to peace and desperate to avoid exile (and probably death) among the Geats, bewildered, terrified and exalted by her visions.

Although it depends not a whit on the previous book, it may well drive new readers to it, so they can spend more time in this fascinating, distant place. (Historical fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86766-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes


From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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