Teens seeking melodrama, tense tragedy, and poignantly self-sacrificing protagonists will be amply rewarded.

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ENDLESS WATER, STARLESS SKY

From the Bright Smoke, Cold Fire series , Vol. 2

Their last misadventures brought them close to death, but the star-crossed lovers roar back to life in this sequel.

Grief- and guilt-stricken, the survivors now (again) serve opposing families. Always dramatic, Mahyanai Romeo becomes a vigilante to protect his fugitive (and ungrateful) Catresou in-laws. Meanwhile, Juliet, mistakenly bonded to Mahyanai Runajo, seeks loopholes in her new in-laws’/captors’ commands even as they wield her like a weapon against her Catresou kin. Even Paris reappears, albeit as one of the living dead enslaved by the Master Necromancer, whose magical malevolence has hastened the Ruining, eroding the blood-sacrifice–fueled walls around Viyara and rapidly reanimating the dead as ravenous revenants. Gender-bending Vai—likely Twelfth Night’s Viola and one of the few main characters of color—continues to defend the Lower City. Reunion and romance are repeatedly postponed, and the apparent finale pauses for a strange detour into the land of Death, where the four protagonists slog through a Dantesque nightscape of tormented souls, allegorical semimedieval monsters, and Greek-myth–level trials. With a multitude of points of view, chaotic fight scenes, and the feverish medieval-world-besieged-by-zombies plot, readers may not even care about Hodge’s (Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, 2016, etc.) departure from Shakespeare or the absence of the Bard’s levity.

Teens seeking melodrama, tense tragedy, and poignantly self-sacrificing protagonists will be amply rewarded. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-236944-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell...

SIX OF CROWS

Adolescent criminals seek the haul of a lifetime in a fantasyland at the beginning of its industrial age.

The dangerous city of Ketterdam is governed by the Merchant Council, but in reality, large sectors of the city are given over to gangs who run the gambling dens and brothels. The underworld's rising star is 17-year-old Kaz Brekker, known as Dirtyhands for his brutal amorality. Kaz walks with chronic pain from an old injury, but that doesn't stop him from utterly destroying any rivals. When a councilman offers him an unimaginable reward to rescue a kidnapped foreign chemist—30 million kruge!—Kaz knows just the team he needs to assemble. There's Inej, an itinerant acrobat captured by slavers and sold to a brothel, now a spy for Kaz; the Grisha Nina, with the magical ability to calm and heal; Matthias the zealot, hunter of Grishas and caught in a hopeless spiral of love and vengeance with Nina; Wylan, the privileged boy with an engineer's skills; and Jesper, a sharpshooter who keeps flirting with Wylan. Bardugo broadens the universe she created in the Grisha Trilogy, sending her protagonists around countries that resemble post-Renaissance northern Europe, where technology develops in concert with the magic that's both coveted and despised. It’s a highly successful venture, leaving enough open questions to cause readers to eagerly await Volume 2.

Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell into a family . (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-212-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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