This gender-fluid tale opens a dystopian series on a high note.


From the The Elected Series series , Vol. 1

This first installment of a YA SF trilogy introduces a teenage girl in North America’s post-apocalyptic future who must masquerade as a boy to serve as the absolute leader of an isolated realm.

In Shay’s dystopian tale, it is 2185, more than a century after climate change, mass extinctions, and nuclear war ravaged Earth. Surviving nations, facing shortages, infertility, and cancer cutting down populations, have agreed to “Eco-Crisis Accords” that pledge rollbacks on all that brought about civilization’s ruin. Now, they forbid electricity and other advanced technology, international travel, and representational democracy. Instead of parliaments and congresses, an “Elected” family serves 100-year terms, with men taking charge at age 18 to enforce the Accords. In struggling, cloistered East Country—which includes what used to be Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the Chesapeake Bay—first-person narrator Aloy and her dynasty occupy the White House, enjoying veneration, food, and no-longer-manufactured medication. But there is a price. The girl’s heir-apparent brother, Evan, ran away, leaving the inner circle no choice but to disguise Aloy as a boy, complete with an arranged fiancee, Vienne. Dutifully, Aloy ascends to the office of Elected on her 18th birthday and prepares for the sham marriage to the lovely, faithful Vienne while also earning the respect of the populace by fighting rising discontent from a faction that demands restoration of industry. In addition, outsiders may be causing trouble on the border. While there are plenty of intriguing ingredients in this YA hero-fronted novel, the story does take sexual elements, including the Sapphic, a bit beyond the usual PG-13 territory. (But nothing gets graphic, as it seems Aloy, while educated in everything else, has never been taught exactly how babies are made.) There are abundant incidents and crises packed into a fairly tight page count. It makes a bit of a difference that the antagonists—at least in this installment—are not Hunger Games–style sadistic elite castes or power-mad dictators. They are just people in extreme circumstances trying to do the morally correct things for the greater good to flourish, even when devotion to duty means deceit and cruelty (plus some evidently great sex). A big to-be-continued hangs over the finale.

This gender-fluid tale opens a dystopian series on a high note.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73204-790-7

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.


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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Not everybody lives, and certainly not “happily ever after”—but within all the grisly darkness, Alice’s fierce integrity and...

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From the Hazel Wood series , Vol. 1

A ferocious young woman is drawn into her grandmother’s sinister fairy-tale realm in this pitch-black fantasy debut.

Once upon a time, Althea Proserpine achieved a cult celebrity with Tales from the Hinterland, a slim volume of dark, feminist fairy tales, but Alice has never met her reclusive grandmother nor visited her eponymous estate. Instead, she has spent her entire 17 years on the run from persistent bad luck, relying only on her mother, Ella. Now Althea is dead and Ella has been kidnapped, and the Hinterland seems determined to claim Alice as well. The Hinterland—and the Stories that animate it—appear as simultaneously wondrous and horrific, dreamlike and bloody, lyrical and creepy, exquisitely haunting and casually, brutally cruel. White, petite, and princess-pretty Alice is a difficult heroine to like in her stormy (and frequently profane) narration, larded with pop-culture and children’s-literature references and sprinkled with wry humor; her deceptive fragility conceals a scary toughness, icy hostility, and simmering rage. Despite her tentative friendship (and maybe more) with Ellery Finch, a wealthy biracial, brown-skinned geek for all things Althea Proserpine, any hints of romance are negligible compared to the powerful relationships among women: mothers and daughters, sisters and strangers, spinner and stories; ties of support and exploitation and love and liberation.

Not everybody lives, and certainly not “happily ever after”—but within all the grisly darkness, Alice’s fierce integrity and hard-won self-knowledge shine unquenched. (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-14790-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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