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

SMOKE IN THE SUN

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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Star-crossed lovers carve their own paths in an explosive conclusion that lives up to its title.

OUR VIOLENT ENDS

From the These Violent Delights series , Vol. 2

New monsters terrorize Shanghai amid political upheaval and the reignition of the blood feud between the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers.

The death of Marshall Seo unleashed a new wave of violence, but when a mysterious figure wielding control over more deadly-insect–releasing monsters begins extorting money from both gangs, their leaders agree to temporarily cooperate in the interests of eliminating a mutual foe. They order their respective heirs to find the blackmailer, and so, once again, Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai must work together for the benefit of those under their protection. But their feelings for each other—complicated by hidden truths, lingering love, and unforgiving duty—prove difficult to repress. Meanwhile, the time of revolution draws near: Workers continue to organize protests decrying both foreign occupation and gangster rule as the Nationalist Army marches toward Shanghai in its campaign to unite and reclaim the country. Secrets abound and loyalties are tested in this tightly plotted sequel featuring a multinational cast and told through multiple third-person perspectives, including those of supporting characters introduced in These Violent Delights (2020). Stubborn Rosalind, obliging Kathleen, and grief-stricken Benedikt all return to play vital roles that blend seamlessly into Roma’s and Juliette’s storylines as they each are forced to consider what it is they truly want and the lengths they will go to protect it.

Star-crossed lovers carve their own paths in an explosive conclusion that lives up to its title. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-534-45772-0

Page Count: 512

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers.

YOU'VE REACHED SAM

Technology prevails over death, giving a teenage couple a second chance at goodbye.

High school senior Julie is paralyzed with grief over her boyfriend Sam’s death in a car accident. She avoids his funeral and throws away every reminder of him. They had planned to leave their small Pacific Northwest town together, and she now faces an uncertain and empty future. But one night she impulsively dials his cell, and, inexplicably, Sam answers. This is the first of many long conversations they have, neither understanding how or why this is happening but relishing the chance to say goodbye as they could not in life. However, Julie faces a difficult choice: whether or not to alleviate the pain of Sam’s loved ones by allowing them to talk to him, though it could put their own connection at risk. Yet, letting go and moving on might be just what she needs. The emotional tenor of the book is even throughout, making the characters feel remote at times and flattening the impact of momentous events—such as Julie and Sam’s first conversation—that are often buried in minor, day-in-the-life details. The time skips can also be difficult to follow. But the concept is a smart one and is sure to intrigue readers, especially those grappling with separation, loss, and mortality. Sam is cued as Japanese American; Julie defaults to White.

A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76203-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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