Despite frequently inelegant prose, the story will probably please series fans.

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MISTRESS OF ALL EVIL

A TALE OF THE DARK FAIRY

From the Villains series , Vol. 4

Disney’s Villains series’ fourth installment highlights Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent.

Maleficent turns to the villainous witch trio the Odd Sisters for aid finding Aurora. Although they were lost in the land of dreams after Poor Unfortunate Soul (2016), they give enough advice that Maleficent succeeds in the spindle plot. But Maleficent needs Aurora gone for good, so she abducts Prince Phillip and seeks the assistance of two other powerful witches, Circe and Nanny, to ensure Aurora never wakes. The connections with the previous books of the series (including periodic recaps and reminders as well as appearances by Princess Tulip, Snow White, Queen Grimhilde, and more) as well as the back story shared among Maleficent and the other characters are told in lengthy, sometimes-clunky expository passages and flashbacks. The nonlinear plotting allows for forward plot progression on the storyline with Circe and her sisters, as well as a metafictive one about a storybook. In flashbacks, Maleficent goes from an isolated outcast adopted by Nanny to a victim of extreme bullying to the villain. Feminist Maleficent sneers at the princesses-needing-rescue trope, thereby insidiously reinforcing it, and the book primarily concerns itself with all manner of relationships between females. The story builds to a revelation that answers the question of why Maleficent seeks to destroy Aurora. Aside from colorful Maleficent (she modulates between green and lavender), if other characters’ skin tones are described, they’re pale.

Despite frequently inelegant prose, the story will probably please series fans. (Fantasy. 10-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-368-00901-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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