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BRIGHT SMOKE, COLD FIRE

A bloody and bold tale for those who want some Romero with their Romeo, but resolution awaits a sequel.

Young lovers and enemies try to save the city in this dystopian spin on Romeo and Juliet.

In a Ruined world, the Sisters of Thorn protect the lone city of Viyara with a magic wall sustained by human blood, but orphaned novice Runajo (the book’s Rosaline) hopes to restore the failing barrier via lost spells from the long-sealed Sunken Library. Ruthless and tiresomely righteous, Mahyanai Runajo magically bonds with the Juliet—the Catresou’s magically modified, martially trained, lethal young woman—and overcomes her qualms about necromancy and slavery in order to exploit the Juliet’s unwilling obedience in a claustrophobic and combative relationship. Hapless co-narrator Catresou Paris simultaneously mind-melds with the grief-stricken Mahyanai Romeo, and the duo plunges into the chaotic, colorful Lower City, seeking to avenge the Juliet’s alleged death and expose a necromancer through scary (if slapstick) misadventures. Old feuds and entrenched beliefs prove bigger obstacles than omnipresent but impermanent death—the protagonists rely on rituals even as revenants, reapers, and the reanimated clash with the remaining humans. Hodge puts secondary characters center-stage, lards the text liberally with Shakespeare quotes, and adds the undead, buckets of blood, and an impending apocalypse to create a rich, if repetitive retelling. Her worldbuilding emphasizes family over race; the Mahyanai are dark-haired and fair-skinned, while the Catresou go masked (though the Juliet is fair-skinned).

A bloody and bold tale for those who want some Romero with their Romeo, but resolution awaits a sequel. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-236941-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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