Just the ticket for fantasy readers who want a swoony love story and a good cry.

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SILVER EVE

From the Guardians of Tarnec series , Vol. 2

Grief and guilt serve as dominant themes in this tragic romance, second in the Guardians of Tarnec series.

Separated from her beloved cousin Lark (protagonist of Lark Rising, 2014) and devastated by the slaughter of her intended before her eyes, Evie Carew longs to die as well…if only her inborn Healer instincts would permit. She finds renewed purpose when Laurent, a fabled Rider of Tarnec, reveals that she is one of the four ordained Keepers of Balance against the Breeders of Chaos. Evie accepts her duty as Guardian of Death to seek out a stolen amulet, but both her intense attraction to the handsome Rider and her lively curiosity lead to choices that may doom her mission—and the entire world. This sequel shares the dreamily poetic voice and original magic system of the first, but it has a much darker tone and subtler characterization. While Laurent is mostly a bland generic love interest, Evie shows considerable depth and agency. Her rage, despair, and guilt feel very real, and she is far more assertive than her diffident cousin. Unfortunately, the narrative casts these strengths as disastrous vulnerabilities; Lark’s newfound decisiveness is likewise punished. Still, the suspenseful pace retains interest up through a chilling climax, with a literal cliffhanger to keep readers hooked.

Just the ticket for fantasy readers who want a swoony love story and a good cry. (Fantasy. 10-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-449-81752-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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