Gripping and fresh, with memorable characters—a winner.


From the Cinzento Academy series , Vol. 1

A team of teenage computer security experts tackles a mysterious hacker.

In the near future, the Cinzento Secure corporation, which focuses on cybersecurity, also houses the Cinzento Academy. Though all the students are gifted, Team Raven is especially elite, composed of computer-skill prodigies more qualified than most adults. As “Mom,” the kids’ lunch lady/counselor/substitute parent says, “They’re a pretty special bunch—when they don’t let it go to their heads.” The team lead is Ginger “Fireball” Finney, 16, named for her “flame-colored” hair. Other team members, each with their own nicknames, work on specialties like system integration, networking, security, and hacking. Newly recruited to Team Raven is Angel Cambeiro, 17, perhaps inevitably nicknamed Noob; his field of expertise is troubleshooting. The team’s latest assignment is to solve a security breach that’s caused multiple problems at a major bank. The crew is confident they’ve got the chops but soon discover “an epidemic of weird,” as Fireball puts it. For example, the glitches seem to disappear on their own. But why would a hacker go to the trouble of breaking a system only to fix it? Who is the mysterious helper sending the team coded messages? And what’s happened to Zander Grayson, Cinzento Secure’s CEO? As Team Raven works to unravel the mysteries, which begin affecting the country’s entire infrastructure, they encounter big revelations.

Loh uses her background as a Microsoft software engineer to give her debut the ring of authenticity in plot, action, and dialogue. Though the concepts may be unfamiliar for nontechies, Loh makes them as understandable as possible, engaging readers through her teenage characters’ slangy energy: “Within minutes, memory maxed out, ​all ​the drives filled up, and the machine controlling them crashed and rebooted. ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?’ murmured Scrappy.” The book is also well plotted and paced so that tensions and complexities develop intriguingly. Readers may guess some of the mysteries ahead of time, but it’s still enjoyable to see the team puzzle them out. Despite the novel’s tech focus, another strength is that it’s character-driven. The diverse young protagonists may be geniuses, but they’re still maturing. For example, when Fireball and fellow team member Scrappy deliver a martial arts beat down to bullies threatening a city bus driver, she numbers it among “instinctive acts of kindness.” Later that day, Fireball lets information slip to a reporter who’d questioned her abilities. As a result, she’s temporarily removed as team lead and reflects on the bus incident. It’s true they genuinely hate bullies, “But hadn’t some of it been about pride? About needing to establish worth?” This reflectiveness helps balance what could be a smug undertone to the team’s superiority of skill. The arrival of a new member, too, provides conflict through team friction plus a graceful excuse for necessary exposition.

Gripping and fresh, with memorable characters—a winner.

Pub Date: May 20, 2020


Page Count: 353

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.


From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)


From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet