An imaginative adventure yarn with a few rough spots, but one that clearly benefits from the great amount of thought that...

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Brainwalker

Debut authors Mundell and Lacast team up to present a YA science-fantasy epic set in a strange, allegorical universe that exists within a human brain, complete with its own residents, creatures, and laws.

Bernard Knifton is almost 14 and in dire need of a new idea for a science project. Unfortunately, his dad, Floyd, is no help, as he has even less time for his son since Bernard’s mother died. Floyd works at a lab with its own particle accelerator, however, which is perfect, because Bernard’s new project idea aims to prove that wormholes exist. The teenager gets more than he bargains for, though, when he slips into the accelerator. A stray wormhole sucks him up and deposits him in a strange, alien universe inside his father’s brain—a place that its residents call the “Brainiverse.” One of the residents, Basilides, a young member of the Holon species, initially rescues Bernard from the creature that brought him to his world. Together, the two boys must investigate the loss of a life force called Energeia, which is causing widespread deaths of neurons, the city-states of the Brainiverse. If they don’t figure out the cause, Bernard might not get home, or if he does, the father he remembers might not be waiting there for him. This story is full of high-stakes adventure, and it often excels in its imaginative and allegorical exploration of real-world issues. The descriptions of the various locations, creatures, and residents of the Brainiverse are both fun and intelligent. Bernard is an engaging protagonist, and although he’s less convincing in scenes set outside the Brainiverse, he really comes to life within it. Other, secondary characters in the outside world, however, don’t get this chance and often come across as stereotypes, such as an unimaginative teacher, a hard-case boss, and a know-it-all classmate. Fortunately, that world is very soon left behind for the phantasmagoria that is the Brainiverse.

An imaginative adventure yarn with a few rough spots, but one that clearly benefits from the great amount of thought that its authors put into it.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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Dark, demanding, and delicious.

TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND

From the Hazel Wood series , Vol. 2.5

Twelve pitch-black original fairy tales form the backbone to an acclaimed fantasy series.

Fans of the Hazel Wood series know of Althea Proserpine’s cult anthology, the original stories whose characters escaped into our world. Featuring, among others, Hansa the Traveler, Twice-Killed Katherine, and, of course, Alice-Three-Times (whose tale’s much-speculated-about ending falls oddly flat), the stories feel both familiar—the first was already included in its entirety in the series opener and several others, in abbreviated and altered form—and revelatory, unfolding in all their rich, lush, macabre, and grisly glory. Despite their vaguely preindustrial Western European setting, these are anything but traditional folktales. While every protagonist is female, the themes are not explicitly feminist; rather, the overwhelming tone is savage, angry, bitter, and cruel. Most of the leads do achieve a vicious and vengeful sort of triumph, but only one even approaches a conventional happy ending. Relationships (exclusively heterosexual) are only an excuse for male lust, domination, and manipulation. Parents (especially mothers) are mostly neglectful, smothering, abusive…or dead. Death, often horrific death, is a constant presence, even as a literal character in several stories. Although this collection could well be read on its own, the unrelenting grimness can be wearying; it may be best appreciated for the context and commentary it offers for the preceding volumes. Tierney’s bold illustrations, many featuring stark, contrasting tones of red, black, and white, accentuate the mood. There is some diversity in skin tone.

Dark, demanding, and delicious. (Fairy tales. 16-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-30272-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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