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A DROP OF VENOM

A gripping, magical tale of sisterhood and strength.

A retelling of the Medusa tale set within a world infused with Indian lore that follows a sexual assault survivor whose powers enable her to seek vengeance.

In this reimagining of the myth of Medusa, with influences from the story of Perseus and serpent deities from Indian folklore, Manisha is a beautiful 16-year-old temple priestess who’s secretly one of the feared naga people who can turn men into stone. Orphaned Pratyush is the last of his kind, an invincible 17-year-old monster slayer in service to a selfish king. He visits the temple time and again, simply to see and talk to Manisha; she’s intrigued by the charismatic boy who’s also a legendary warrior. But before they can be together, Manisha is violently sexually assaulted and, with the help of snake magic and golden serpent companion Noni, survives being kicked into a pit of venomous vipers. She travels the outskirts of the kingdom, searching for the family torn from her in childhood and defending young women in need. Meanwhile, the king sends Pratyush on a mission to bring back the head of the powerful Serpent Queen. The dual-perspective narration goes back and forth in time, heightening the suspense as Manisha’s and Pratyush’s paths inevitably intersect again. This thrilling, well-paced fantasy, with rich worldbuilding and a slow-burn romance, powerfully reclaims Medusa as a symbol of feminist rage.

A gripping, magical tale of sisterhood and strength. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781368092685

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents/Disney

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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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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