Full of derring-do and double crosses, this romantic adventure is thoroughly engrossing.

ROOK

A clever homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel, set in a post-apocalyptic future Europe.

In a distant future where most modern technology has been lost, Sophia Bellamy, 18, leads a double life. By day, she is a young woman of the Commonwealth whose arranged marriage will save her family from debt. By night, she’s the daring Red Rook, who rescues prisoners from the bloodthirsty revolutionaries of the Sunken City (which once was Paris). However, LeBlanc, the Sunken City’s fanatical Ministre of Security, has tracked the Red Rook back to Sophia’s home in Kent. Now Sophia must protect her family and the prisoners she has just rescued and determine whether her sly, all-too-charming fiance, René Hasard, is an enemy or an ally. Cameron (Unseen, 2014) riffs off Baroness Orczy’s sentimental classic without losing any of the romance and adventure that has made it perennially popular. Rich descriptions bring Sophia’s world—from the horrors of the Sunken City’s prisons to her glittering social milieu—to Technicolor life. Sophia’s wits and bravado make her an irresistible protagonist; René proves to be a worthy foil, though unfortunately the same cannot be said of LeBlanc. Still, the novel’s 456 pages mostly fly by thanks to the nonstop intrigue and the occasional swoon-worthy kiss.

Full of derring-do and double crosses, this romantic adventure is thoroughly engrossing. (Science fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67599-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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