While a glorious celebration of female power, this novel doesn’t quite fulfill its immense potential.

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THE QUEEN UNDERNEATH

In this debut novel, the fate of a land rests on two young rulers with little in common.

In Yigris, there is Above and there is Under. Above are the nobles, ruled by a king. Under is home to thieves, assassins, and the queen who leads them. But the balance shifts when both rulers are assassinated and their heirs, Gemma and Tollan, must work together to save their people and Yigris. Gemma has spent most of her life preparing to be queen of Under, but nothing could have truly prepared her for this monumental task. Now she must rely on her training, a trusted band of friends, and a sheltered prince to stop a devastating war. Filak plays with interesting concepts of female empowerment: While Above is inherently patriarchal and misogynistic, Under is liberated and led by women. Although Gemma and the world of Under come vividly to life, other aspects of the novel fall flat. Readers will appreciate Gemma’s strength and wit, but Tollan is frustratingly ineffectual and ends up feeling more like a plot device than a central character. Gemma is white, and Tollan is dark-skinned as well as being gay and exploring his sexuality.

While a glorious celebration of female power, this novel doesn’t quite fulfill its immense potential. (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62414-560-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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A very full mixed bag.

KINGSBANE

From the Empirium Trilogy series , Vol. 2

In the sequel to Furyborn (2018), Rielle and Eliana struggle across time with their powers and prophesied destinies.

Giving readers only brief recaps, this book throws them right into complicated storylines in this large, lovingly detailed fantasy world filled with multiple countries, two different time periods, and hostile angels. Newly ordained Rielle contends with villainous Corien’s interest in her, the weakening gate that holds the angels at bay, and distrust from those who don’t believe her to be the Sun Queen. A thousand years in the future, Eliana chafes under her unwanted destiny and finds her fear of losing herself to her powers (like the Blood Queen) warring with her need to save those close to her. The rigid alternation between time-separated storylines initially feels overstuffed, undermining tension, but once more characters get point-of-view chapters and parallels start paying off, the pace picks up. The multiethnic cast (human versus angelic is the only divide with weight) includes characters of many sexual orientations, and their romantic storylines include love triangles, casual dalliances, steady couples, and couples willing to invite in a third. While many of the physically intimate scenes are loving, some are rougher, including ones that cross lines of clear consent and introduce a level of violence that many young readers will not be ready for. The ending brings heartbreaking twists to prime readers for the trilogy’s conclusion.

A very full mixed bag. (map, list of elements) (Fantasy. 17-adult)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5665-4

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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