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FIRE BECOMES HER

An ambitious genre mashup.

A girl’s scorching desire for power threatens to consume her.

In a 1920s-inspired fantasy city called Candesce lives teenager Ingrid Ellis. Candesce is powered by flare, a substance that permeates all corners of human life, serving as beverage, fuel, weapon, electoral ballot, and even an aesthetic enhancement. Though Ingrid attends the prestigious Ainsley Academy, she’s had to fight for all she has, being the impoverished daughter of a convict and having spent her childhood in an orphanage. Ingrid is dating the handsome and affluent Linden Holt, whose senator father is a candidate in the presidential election. Desperate to elevate her social status, she ingratiates herself with Sen. Holt, becoming a spy for him within his rival candidate’s party. There she meets captivating staffer Alex Castille, who makes her question everything she’s ever wanted. Thor’s sophomore effort refuses to be simply defined, mixing fantasy, romance, and political intrigue. Although it feels a bit uneven in its broad focus and slow worldbuilding, themes of power and inequality are thoughtfully explored through Ingrid’s self-actualization: She is at times infuriatingly ruthless, but this makes her journey all the more intriguing. A central relationship is asexual and includes candid discussion of boundaries. Ingrid and Linden are White; Alex has brown skin, and the supporting cast includes ethnic diversity and queer representation.

An ambitious genre mashup. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-67911-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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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BLOOD AT THE ROOT

From the Blood at the Root series , Vol. 1

A well-thought-out magical world that provocatively centers Black experiences.

Black diaspora magic manifests in a boy on the worst day of his life—but later, things only get more complicated.

When Malik Baron was 7, his mother vanished in the explosive moment his powers manifested while he defended them from mysterious cloaked figures. Ten years (and many foster homes later), the short-tempered Malik isn’t much better at controlling his powers, but he’s ready to leave Helena, Alabama, and start over with Taye, his foster brother. Reuniting with Mama Aya, the maternal grandmother in New Orleans he never knew, wasn’t part of the plan, but fate draws Malik to her—and into a secret world of magic. He discovers Caiman University—a sort of magical historically Black college—which may be where he’ll find answers to what happened to his mother. Narrator Malik, who uses colorful language, is fully aware of the Black Harry Potter subtext of his story, and he’s thoughtfully focused on protecting Taye, proving his mother is still alive, and surviving in a world that has never made things easy, even before supernatural threats emerged. The extensive worldbuilding incorporates West African, Caribbean, and Black American history and cultures to explain a magical reality hidden from view and relevant to the Black diaspora and Malik’s family history. When Malik bumps into an old friend and potential love interest on campus, everything is in place for him to grow into his powers, uncover the truth, and face new heartbreak.

A well-thought-out magical world that provocatively centers Black experiences. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780593711927

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Labyrinth Road

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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