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From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 2

An excellent continuation of a series seemingly designed for readers of the political, bloody fantasy style du jour, set...

Tahir’s follow-up to An Ember in the Ashes (2015) picks up right where Volume 1 left off, ratcheting up the tension (military and sexual) as well as the magic, the violence, and the stakes.

Laia (golden-eyed, dark-haired, magically gifted) and Elias (gray-eyed, “golden-brown”–skinned soldier extraordinaire) have fled Blackcliff, determined to rescue Laia’s imprisoned brother and potentially spur a Scholar rebellion, while icy, Aryan Helene, now Blood Shrike and second in power only to sadistic Emperor Marcus, must determine where her loyalty lies. Complex plots and counterplots exist in every corner, and all three main characters, but especially Helene and Elias, must constantly grapple with the cost of power and the price of victory. Powerful females in charge of their lives and their bodies abound, even if their boy-laden conversations rarely pass the Bechdel test. Tahir pulls few punches: brutal deaths occur and characters make choices that cause pain and suffering. But hope exists, and readers will be torn between the vivid, oppositional characters. Laia, shaping up to be a chosen one, ironically has the least compelling arc, but there are hints that her future will change that. Diversity exists in this Roman-Arabian fantasy world, but racial categories do not have one-to-one correspondence with our own.

An excellent continuation of a series seemingly designed for readers of the political, bloody fantasy style du jour, set apart by an uncommon world. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-99887-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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