Frequently baffling and uneven; only for readers already invested in Lucky.

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THE SOWING

From the Torch Keeper series , Vol. 2

Following The Culling (2013), Recruit-turned–Imposer trainee Lucian “Lucky” Spark observes the Trials, a yearly competition in which horror-movie–esque situations determine which competitor’s loved one dies; his position may be new, but it is still potentially deadly.

Lucky takes advantage of his new, privileged position as Trials winner to gain access to munitions and locations for sabotage and terrorist attacks against the regime he serves. Still a guileless hero, Lucky isn’t the stealthiest insurgent—his primary antagonist, Cassius, sees through him, and he runs afoul of the organized resistance. After straightening things out, they send him to assassinate Cassius and the prime minister, but when the time comes, a terrible, surprising choice botches the mission (as in the first book, choices again are a major theme). As punishment, Cassius sends Lucky and his fellow Imposer trainees back to the Trials—this time as Incentives who will be killed if their Recruit places last in a contest. Lucky must find a way to escape and save as many fellow hostages as possible. Although the prose revels in gore, readers are spared psychological horror, as most imperiled characters lack necessary development for emotional attachment. In the final act, a series of double crosses (and even triple crosses) and plot twists comes so fast readers won’t have time to ponder implications and motivations.

Frequently baffling and uneven; only for readers already invested in Lucky. (Science fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: March 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7387-3540-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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A purple page turner.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Clockwork Angel (2010) pits gorgeous, attractively broken teens against a menacing evil.

There's betrayal, mayhem and clockwork monstrosities, and the Shadowhunters have only two weeks to discover—oh, who are we kidding? The plot is only surprisingly tasty icing on this cupcake of a melodramatic love triangle. Our heroes are Tessa, who may or may not be a warlock, and the beautiful Shadowhunter warrior boys who are moths to her forbidden flame. It's not always clear why Tessa prefers Will to his beloved (and only) friend Jem, the dying, silver-eyed, biracial sweetheart with the face of an angel. Jem, after all, is gentle and kind, her dearest confidante; Will is unpleasant to everyone around him. But poor, wretched Will—who "would have been pretty if he had not been so tall and so muscular"—has a deep, dark, thoroughly emo secret. His trauma puts all previous romantic difficulties to shame, from the Capulet/Montague feud all the way to Edward Cullen's desire to chomp on Bella Swan. Somehow there's room for an interesting steampunk mystery amid all this angst. The supporting characters (unusually well-developed for a love-triangle romance) include multiple compelling young women who show strength in myriad ways. So what if there are anachronisms, character inconsistencies and weird tonal slips? There's too much overwrought fun to care.

A purple page turner. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7588-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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Though it’s a bit of a slog, readers of Book 1 will find it worth the time for its unexpected conclusion

THE SHADOW'S CURSE

A lost prince and his ladylove must defeat the tyrant rampaging over the steppes with an army of enslaved spirits in this sequel to The Oathbreaker’s Shadow (2015).

Raim is haunted by the spirit of his best friend, Khareh—a spirit that appeared when Raim accidentally broke an oath made by another, leaving him magically marked and exiled from his nomadic tribe as an oathbreaker. Khareh yet lives, but with the best part of himself lost in the spirit, his ambition has become megalomania. Not content to be khan of his tribe alone, Khareh aims to join all the northern nomads into one massive khanate. Raim seeks control over his spirit but also yearns to rescue Wadi, the dark-skinned desert girl to whom he's given his heart. Wadi is Khareh's captive, and she is more than capable of freeing herself from the cruel young khan; nevertheless she must stay a captive. It's her destiny to make a king of Raim, she learns from a blind seer in one of the stalest tropes of superpowered disability. Raim, Khareh, and Wadi travel all over the steppes of Darhan, giving a solid glimpse of this fantasy world roughly based on the lives of Mongolian nomads. A dense narrative of tiny chapters with shifting points of view leaves little time to become invested in each character's journey.

Though it’s a bit of a slog, readers of Book 1 will find it worth the time for its unexpected conclusion . (Fantasy. 13-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7387-4512-1

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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