Engaging; despite some flaws, this is a successful debut.

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THE LADY ALCHEMIST

Alchemists battle magicians and a skilled young woman and her country are caught in the middle in this “Rumpelstiltskin” adaptation.

Sepha’s town of Three Mills is counting on her unusual alchemy skills to keep their jobs—and her abusive father will make her pay for any mistake. But when things go wrong, desperation gets Sepha into deep trouble, first with the dangerous Magistrate and then with an evil magician who offers to save her for the price of her firstborn child. Her only way out is to create a new life for him in lieu of a future baby. As she attempts to use her alchemy skills to create a body for the magician, she makes discoveries about herself, her few allies, and her country that turn her world upside down and place her at the center of a plan that will either save or destroy her homeland. This complex fantasy hits the ground running and never slows down, with complicated twists, turns, and discoveries in every chapter. Sepha is a sympathetic protagonist whose bad decisions are easily overlooked; readers will follow her trials with interest even if some obstacles feel a bit contrived and overly drawn out. While Vitale’s writing is lovely in places and hackneyed in others, most readers will get through the nearly 400 action-packed pages with pleasure. Most main characters seem to be white; Sepha’s love interest has brown skin.

Engaging; despite some flaws, this is a successful debut. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951710-17-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Month9Books

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A lackluster take on a well-worn trope.

THE TWIN

After a family tragedy, 16-year-old Ivy Mason hopes to reconnect with her aloof identical twin sister, Iris—but Iris has other plans.

When Ivy’s parents divorced 10 years ago, Ivy stayed with her father while Iris went to live with their mother. When their mother dies after falling off a bridge while jogging, Iris comes to live with Ivy and their father. Narrator Ivy is reeling (she even goes to therapy), but Iris seems strangely detached, only coming to life when Ivy introduces her to her best friends, Haley and Sophie, and her quarterback boyfriend, Ty. However, Ivy isn’t thrilled when Iris wants to change her class schedule to match hers, and it’s not long before Iris befriends Ivy’s besties and even makes plans with them that don’t include Ivy. Iris even joins the swim team where Ivy is a star swimmer. As Iris’ strange behavior escalates, Ivy starts to suspect that their mother’s death might not have been an accident. Is Iris up to no good, or is Ivy just paranoid? In the end, readers may not care. There are few surprises to be found in a narrative populated by paper-thin characters stuck fast in a derivative plot. Even a jarring final twist can’t save this one. Most characters seem to be white, but there is some diversity in secondary characters.

A lackluster take on a well-worn trope. (Thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12496-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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