Disappointingly derivative and awkwardly contrived; skip.

THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

From the Nowhere Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A white British boy stumbles into the role of chosen one in this unimaginative urban portal fantasy.

Finmere Tingewick Smith has always lived a double life. Ever since he was left on the steps of London’s Old Bailey as an infant, he’s inexplicably spent his childhood secretly alternating years at two different schools, complete with two different uniforms and two different best friends. He has learned to blend into two completely different social environments without giving anything away. But on his 16th birthday, everything changes when Fin’s guardian is murdered. He learns that Judge Harlequin Brown was the leader of the (seemingly all-male) Order of the Knights of Nowhere, an organization dedicated to traveling between and protecting two distinct realms, The Somewhere (our known universe) and The Nowhere (the one of many parallel universes nearest to our own). When a Knight goes rogue, kidnapping The Nowhere’s Storyholder, a blonde woman, and throwing both universes into chaos, it’s up to Fin and his two best friends, upper-class white Christopher and working-class black Joe, to rescue the Storyholder and restore peace to the worlds. The third-person narration overflows with tedious information that distracts from and convolutes the plot. The few men of color and women who appear in the story are underdeveloped at best and stereotypical tropes or plot devices at worst.

Disappointingly derivative and awkwardly contrived; skip. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4732-2189-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gollancz/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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This solid, enchanting fantasy boasts a palpable atmosphere and moves at a breakneck pace.

THE RAVENS

From the Ravens series , Vol. 1

YA all-stars Morgan and Paige team up to present a witchy take on sorority life.

College freshman Vivi Devereaux can’t wait to go to Savannah’s Westerly College and escape the scams her mother has run to make ends meet—most involving tarot card readings—but she quickly stumbles upon a different type of magic. At a rush party for Kappa Rho Nu, she meets junior Scarlett Winter, a charismatic witch in the running to lead the sorority—which is in fact a front for a prestigious coven called the Ravens. At first hesitant, Vivi quickly warms up to the idea of being in a witch sorority, joining her fellow pledges in learning magic and forming tight bonds of friendship. But the coven has an ominous history involving dead sisters and dark magic, and Vivi and Scarlett get caught up in a dangerous, high-stakes mystery, all while balancing school, family issues, and boy trouble. This novel hits its story beats quickly and deftly, unfurling the plot through Scarlett’s and Vivi’s alternating points of view. The magic system is complex and original without being cumbersome, and it expertly conjures a supernatural, uncanny atmosphere intertwined with Greek life. Vivi is White, Scarlett is Black, and the supporting cast contains a range of diverse racial identities.

This solid, enchanting fantasy boasts a palpable atmosphere and moves at a breakneck pace. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-09823-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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