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LIES WE SING TO THE SEA

Inconsistent but intriguing.

Every year, 12 girls are sacrificed to sea god Poseidon to save the Ithacan people from starvation.

Leto is an orphan in a poor village, selling her half-formed prophecies, when the fate of execution befalls her. Miraculously spared, she is washed ashore on the island of Pandou unconscious but alive, and there she makes her new home with mysterious Melantho, who is something more than human. Leto, like Melantho, has been changed—able to become a scaled, aquatic creature and graced with watery magic. Leto and Melantho form a daring plan to kill the prince whose orders doom girls like them to death, though Leto also feels affection for and attraction to him. As they slowly succumb to their desire for revenge and love for each other, Prince Mathias attempts to right the wrongs of his ancestors. In this feminist retelling, Underwood takes a lesser-known portion of The Odyssey, mining what it has to say about queerness, legacies of violence, and women’s roles in mythology. Unfortunately, the characterizations are underdeveloped, the timelines confusing, and the pacing off. Relationships and plot elements are developed primarily through exposition rather than unfolding naturally. For example, elements such as what precisely defines the attraction between scrappy Leto and Melantho and who Matthias is as a person beg for deeper examination. The retelling works best when it leans into the more monstrous and surreal aspects of the story’s larger mythology and is willing to examine complications in morality and love.

Inconsistent but intriguing. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-323447-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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