Those able to overlook the incomplete worldbuilding will find the compelling, fully fleshed romance and gems of truth...

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PRINCESS OF THORNS

Exiled warrior-princess Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, attempts to save her brother and reclaim her throne.

Fairy-blessed by her dying mother with strength, 17-year-old Princess Aurora hopes to raise an army to free her brother, Jor, from evil ogre queen Ekeeta. Arrogant, crass and beautiful Prince Niklaas is cursed to become a swan on his 18th birthday unless he marries a princess. Disguised as a boy and calling herself Ror, Aurora is disgusted by Niklaas, but when he promises to help her find an army in exchange for an introduction to “his sister,” Ror agrees. While their journey occurs over the span of several days, Aurora and Niklaas’ very Lizzy and Darcy–esque relationship, as well as their growing bond, is entirely believable given the intensity of their experiences. When secrets are finally revealed, their sexual tension practically sizzles, but it’s refreshingly realistic that trust and forgiveness take time. Furthermore, things aren’t as straightforward as they’d seem, as Aurora’s mother’s blessing also came with a curse. The conclusion may come a bit too easy for some, and discerning readers may be left with multiple questions.

Those able to overlook the incomplete worldbuilding will find the compelling, fully fleshed romance and gems of truth scattered throughout the story satisfying and worth the effort. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74322-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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Fan-service? Yes—and fans will rejoice in every dark, luscious moment.

HOW THE KING OF ELFHAME LEARNED TO HATE STORIES

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 3.5

Once upon a time....

In Faerie, a cruel prince met his match in Jude, a human raised in his world. An entire trilogy tells their tale from her perspective; now the prince gets center stage. This lavishly illustrated tome, more a series of vignettes than a complete novel, shows critical moments in Cardan’s life, including moments previously seen through Jude’s perspective. The entirety is framed within a moment that takes place after the end of The Queen of Nothing (2019), providing a glimpse into the maturing relationships between Jude and Cardan and between Cardan and his responsibilities as High King of Elfhame, a land whose multihued, multiformed denizens cannot lie. Woven throughout are three iterations of a story, initially told to a young Cardan, each version different in specifics and moral but all centered on a boy with a heart of stone and a monstrous, cursed bride. Readers familiar with Cardan and Jude’s tumultuous and sometimes troubling love will recognize notes within this repeated tale, but each telling also stands alone as a complete tale, one that feels both inevitable and fresh. Black continues to build an ever expanding mythos with her Faerie stories, and while this volume requires prior knowledge of The Folk of the Air trilogy, it offers new delights along with familiar moments retold.

Fan-service? Yes—and fans will rejoice in every dark, luscious moment. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-54088-9

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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