A spooky, uneven ghost story

THE SUFFERING

The avenging spirit Okiku and her teenage pal search for a lost friend.

Seventeen-year-old Tark has adjusted pretty well to life with Okiku, the vengeful spirit that accompanies him wherever he goes. Tark is able to control Okiku's blood lust, harnessing and aiming it at only those that truly deserve it. When an old friend, Kagura, goes missing, Tark and Okiku travel to the Aokigahara, a forest in Japan infamous for suicide, to search. As the location's dark past is revealed, Okiku begins to lose sight of her moral compass, and Tark begins to feel that nothing will ever be the same again. The novel's horror set pieces are the real highlight. Chupeco establishes a creepy, sinister tone early on but never veers into camp or overwrought darkness. There are bad things in this world, and the author delights in examining both its monsters and the implications of pitting them against one another. The novel's shortcomings are few but large. The opening chapters are clunky, trying hard to fill new readers in on the events of The Girl from the Well (2014) and setting up this plot at the same time. It's also hard to tell which details are vital to the story's background and which details are intended for the story's future. This chunky opening hobbles the book, which doesn't shift into high gear until 76 pages in, and from then on, it’s relatively smooth sailing.

A spooky, uneven ghost story . (Horror. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4926-2983-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Sweet, if unremarkable.

BRIARHEART

A gentle “Sleeping Beauty”–inspired tale of teens training to defend a baby princess.

Fifteen-year-old Miri, beloved stepdaughter of the king, is freshly in love—with her baby sister. As the novel opens, Aurora’s christening looms, and any Disney fan will know what’s coming. However, this is Miri’s story, and pages of first-person description and exposition come before those events. Tirendell, like all kingdoms, has Light and Dark Fae. Dark Fae feed off human misery and sadness, but their desire to cause harm for self-benefit is tempered by the Rules. The Rules state that they can only act against humans under certain conditions, one being that those who have crossed them, for example, by failing to invite them to a royal christening, are fair game. Miri steps up instinctively at the moment of crisis and both deflects the curse and destroys the Dark Fae, which leads to the bulk of the novel: an extended and detailed day-to-day journey with Miri and her five largely indistinguishable new friends as they train in combat and magic to protect Aurora from future threats. With limited action and a minimal plot, this story lacks wide appeal but is notable for the portrait of deep familial love and respect, while the brief, episodic adventures (including talking animals) offer small pleasures. All characters are implied to be White.

Sweet, if unremarkable. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5745-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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