Intelligent cli-fi fantasy with Fab Four wish-fulfillment tossed into the Magical Mystery Tour.

THE EDGE OF ELSEWHERE

In this debut novel, three teenagers in the parched, dying world of 2079 use Albert Einstein’s time-travel secrets to go back a century and warn humanity via a surprised music superstar.

Stea’s book joins the field of “cli-fi” climate-change tales, with time travel and real-life eminences involved. A prologue indicates that Einstein discovered time travel and thus beheld the New York World’s Fair in 1964, years after his official death. Now it’s 2079, 40 years after the eco-collapse, mass extinction, and calamitous fires that accompanied global warming. In dusty, mostly deserted New Jersey, adolescent Abbey Lane subsists with her holdout family and friends while most everyone else has migrated to the Great Lakes for scarce fresh water. Exploring the ruins of Princeton University with her friend Max Sutter, Abbey finds Einstein’s secret journal hidden in an antique desk. Her asthmatic, invalid brother, Paul, possesses an awesome intellect, and he deciphers “Uncle Albert’s” time-travel methods from the journal’s pages—how to use naturally occurring, invisible wormholes in time/space to voyage back and forth chronologically. When Paul locates a scheduled wormhole within travel distance, the three kids sneak away from home on a mission to go back in time and warn the world about the future fate that will ensue from industrial emissions and apathy. They do indeed teleport to 1971, and the trio winds up in a New York City filled with hippie idealists and Vietnam War protesters, who sense something special about the three teens who act like they’ve never seen green grass or rain before. Stea somehow avoids a campy tone amid the Greenwich Village and Bleecker Street counterculture (not an easy feat). When the kids enter the orbit of legendary rock musician John Lennon, the handling of Lennon as a fictional character is realistic and persuasive where a more star-struck SF narrative might have gone off the rails. Indeed, readers will suddenly notice Beatles references insinuated throughout. Though modulated for a YA readership, all ages can jam to the leisurely narrative, and older ones who still remember the period may appreciate the what-if treatment that’s brought off well. While the author credits numerous writers, thinkers, and rockers as influences, AWOL is Jack Finney, whose nostalgic time-travel tales echo this one.

Intelligent cli-fi fantasy with Fab Four wish-fulfillment tossed into the Magical Mystery Tour. (acknowledgments, author bio)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73313-591-7

Page Count: 438

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

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An adventurous and relevant fantasy that strives for gold but settles, in the end, for silver.

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THE GILDED ONES

From the Deathless series , Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Deka seeks acceptance and absolution.

Every year adolescent girls in the patriarchal kingdom of Otera prepare for the Ritual of Purity that determines whether they can join their communities as pure-blooded women or be cast out and branded impure monsters. Brown-skinned, gray-eyed Deka yearns to prove she belongs, but when her blood runs gold, she’s revealed to be an alaki—a near-immortal woman warrior—and is carted away to become the front line of defense for the people who’ve discarded her. With measured focus, debut author Forna creates a provocative world filled with fantastical creatures, centuries-old divine conflict, and overt feminist messaging around gender inequity and “purity.” Also compelling is Forna’s ability to capture feelings tugging on the consciences of many, telling them they are unworthy of life, liberty, and unconditional love because of who they are. The character development is a bit superficial, unfurling quickly with movie montage–like speed. There is celebration of diverse body types, some peripheral queer representation, and ethnic diversity that roughly correlates with the real world (e.g. a character called Li is from the East, and Northerners have pink skin and blond hair). The plot-twist climax is hinted at throughout the book, held just out of reach until the pieces fall neatly together. Unfortunately, the energy then peters out for the falling action and epilogue.

An adventurous and relevant fantasy that strives for gold but settles, in the end, for silver. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984848-69-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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An accomplished, exciting debut.

ALL THE STARS AND TEETH

From the All the Stars and Teeth series , Vol. 1

A princess embarks on a dangerous path to the throne.

In the island kingdom of Visidia, where each person is allowed just one type of magic, only the members of the royal Montara family have the ability to wield the dangerous soul magic. Princess Amora is next in line to be High Animancer, but she must first prove to her people that she is powerful enough to use her magic to protect them. But something goes terribly wrong during a critical public ceremony, and Amora runs away with dashing pirate Bastian, whose rescue comes with a price: She must help him recover his own magic, stolen away by a dangerous man leading a growing rebellion that could bring down the whole kingdom. Debut author Grace wields her own magic with a skillful balancing act between high-stakes adventure (here there be monsters, mermaids, and high-seas shenanigans), bloody fantasy, and character development in a story with a lovable found family at its core. Amora yearns for adventure just as she welcomes her right to command her kingdom; her ferocious sense of duty and legitimate need to do good shine through. The novel’s further unravelling of dark secrets long kept comes with a recognized need for accountability and making amends which adds a thoughtful extra layer to the rich worldbuilding. Amora has copper-brown skin and dark, curly hair; other characters have a range of skin tones in this diverse world.

An accomplished, exciting debut. (guide to the kingdom) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30778-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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