This heavy high fantasy manages moments of humor and beauty for a satisfying read.

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SNOW LIKE ASHES

From the Snow Like Ashes series , Vol. 1

A carefully crafted fantasy grapples with intense issues.

In Primoria, the world protagonist Meira inhabits, there are eight kingdoms: four Seasons, in a perpetual state of the season they’re named for, and four Rhythms that cycle through all four. Meira is one of the remaining eight free Winterians: Sixteen years prior to the opening of the book, King Angra of Spring attacked Winter, slaying its queen, destroying its Royal Conduit (a locket used by a female ruler to magically aid her country) and enslaving the surviving Winterians. Attempting to reclaim half the locket, Meira is captured but almost instantly escapes due to quick thinking and her military training—a feat that Raasch makes surprisingly believable. Her complicated relationship with Mather, heir to the Winterian throne, is put on hold when Spring scouts follow her to camp and the refugees must flee to the Rhythm of Cordell—where Meira meets the instantly likable Prince Theron and discovers she’s very much a pawn in a bigger game. The dramatic twist toward the end is impressive both in its believability and its unpredictability. Unfortunately, Raasch’s world is racialized, and the heroic Winterians are pale and beautiful. While the villain is also fair-skinned, the choice to valorize whiteness is perhaps ill-considered given the fraught history of racial stereotyping in high fantasy.

This heavy high fantasy manages moments of humor and beauty for a satisfying read. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-228692-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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An accomplished, exciting debut.

ALL THE STARS AND TEETH

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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