Absolutely necessary to those who loved the first; otherwise mostly incoherent.



From the Flame in the Mist series , Vol. 2

It’s out of the outlaw forest and into the imperial court in this conclusion of a fantasy duology set in an alternate feudal Japan.

Newly “rescued” from the Black Clan, Hattori Mariko returns to the path her noble family prescribes, affianced to the brother of the new Emperor of Wa. Mariko resolves to play the meek, dutiful maiden (even if that requires actually marrying brutal Raiden) in order to spy for the rebels and possibly rescue her beloved Okami. But with dark powers threatening everything Mariko cherishes, her cleverness may not be enough. With admirable brio, Ahdieh (Flame in the Mist, 2017, etc.) serves up intrigues and counterintrigues, battles and betrayals, harrowing scenes of graphic torture and interludes of heated romance, conveyed through no fewer than seven viewpoints. Nuanced female characters drive the action, including a gratifyingly matured Mariko: less preternaturally ingenious but more intelligent and aware; less insistent upon honor but unshakable in her integrity. Unfortunately, the choppy, overwrought prose again substitutes a deluge of Japanese vocabulary for thoughtful worldbuilding. The magical system, while clarified, still fails to fully explore its implications. Eventually the snarl of complicated schemes lurches to a rushed climax—entangling a (clichéd) lunatic villain, an (implausible) heel-face turn, and a (no, really!) weaponized zombie apocalypse—followed by a discordant epilogue littered with jaunty romantic banter and abandoned plotlines.

Absolutely necessary to those who loved the first; otherwise mostly incoherent. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3814-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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

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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

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