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A stellar, mythical hero whose prowess and tenacity could easily drive her own series.

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In this debut YA fantasy, a teenage assassin braves a ruthless crime lord and powerful immortals to save her sister.

Eighteen-year-old Shin Lina is the Reaper, the Kingdom of Sunpo’s greatest assassin. But a year ago, her gang, the Talons, died at the hands of rivals, and now Lina works for her enemy, Konrarnd Kalmin. She has no choice, as Kalmin incessantly threatens the life of her sister, Eunbi. During Lina’s latest gig, she snatches a jewel-embedded tapestry from a long-abandoned temple in the dilapidated kingdom. That theft sparks unexpected retaliation, and both Lina and Kalmin, against their will, end up in Gyeulcheon, the hidden realm of Dokkaebi, or immortals. It’s Haneul Rui (better known as the Pied Piper) who’s brought them there, and he offers a chance for Lina to escape. All she has to do is kill Gyeulcheon’s emperor—Rui himself. She agrees to this twisted “game,” as Kalmin’s cronies back in the mortal realm still pose a threat to Eunbi. But Rui proves awfully hard to kill, and his handsomeness doesn’t make her lethal objective any easier. Kim’s retelling of Korean mythologies delivers a diverse cast and excels at character development. For example, Lina continually worries about getting back to Eunbi, and periodic flashbacks lead up to the Talons’ final day. At the same time, romantic moments between Lina and her captor are well earned, while a backstory reveals glimpses into Rui’s past. Although the skills of highly trained Lina are without question, the leisurely narrative primarily unfolds in luxurious Gyeulcheon, where her punishments (for failed assassination attempts) are no harsher than palace kitchen duties. Nonetheless, the Dokkaebi who surround Lina raise the stakes, from a brewing rebellion to a few immortals more dangerous than Rui. Kim may have a series in the works, as she closes her book with a subplot or two unresolved.

A stellar, mythical hero whose prowess and tenacity could easily drive her own series.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64937-280-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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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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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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