ZENITH

From the Andromeda Saga series , Vol. 1

A wanted space mercenary is offered clemency in return for executing a dangerous mission with the ex who betrayed her.

Andi is the outlaw Bloody Baroness, a ruthless mercenary who’s quick to kill and yet haunted by her dead. She’s close only with her all-female crew: Second-in-Command Lira, a leadership-averse ace pilot with scales that change color and heat up with her emotions, and a package-deal pair of gunners, 7-foot-tall amnesiac Breck and adorable 13-year-old Gilly. (The gunners are sadly underdeveloped and underutilized.) When they’re apprehended by bounty hunter Dex (Andi’s ex), who’s working for her home planet Arcardius’ Gen. Cortas (who also has history with Andi), they’re offered amnesty if they can rescue Cortas’ kidnapped son, Valen, from a notorious Xen Pterran prison. Meanwhile, Xen Ptera’s Queen Nor is a vague, lurking menace who is prone to melodramatic vows of vengeance against her planet’s enemies and who, unsurprisingly, plots a devious scheme to achieve it. Vengeance, forgiveness, and family ties are big themes for Nor and the heroes alike—as, of course, Andi and Dex must work through their own predictable, thematically related issues. Plot twists are heavily forecasted, right up to the cliffhanger ending. Background nonhumans are very diverse (spikes, extra limbs), but the romantic leads appear to be human; Andi is white (as are most Arcardians) and Dex, brown-skinned.

Trope-filled mediocrity. (Science fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-373-21259-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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