Unexceptional; replete with clichés and banalities.

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THE SWORD AND THE DAGGER

During the Crusades, a strategic alliance between the Christian states of Tripoli and Antioch hinges on the marriage of Princess Elaine and Prince Conrad, who are the next in line to the thrones of their respective states.

The rulers of a rival Muslim state do not support such an alliance and send Rashid, a trusted disciple and a trained Nizari assassin, to thwart the marriage by killing Elaine. Unsuccessful in his attempt, he ends up befriending his one-time target and her betrothed fiance, and the three embark on an adventure that test their faiths, their loyalties, and their newfound friendship. Throughout this lengthy debut novel, Cochran—the Emmy Award–winning producer of the controversial hit TV series 24—offers a predictable plot filled with truisms and platitudes along with an unimaginative and unsurprising character list (Conrad with his fragile male ego, headstrong female Elaine, and unwavering, exotic Rashid). The abrupt point of view shifts are jarring, and the plot falls flat, with tensions being resolved all too quickly. The repetitive conflicts all seem to be sorted out with a naïve trope: These 13th-century Christians and Muslims can easily find common ground. The author’s historical note unfortunately refers to works of popular history by authors known for their Islamophobic stances

Unexceptional; replete with clichés and banalities. (map, historical note) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8383-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2019

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

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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