Epic adventure and steamy smooches make for a crowd-pleasing formula.

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TRUTHWITCH

From the Witchlands series , Vol. 1

Two devoted friends dreaming of independence contend with unfathomable magic and the schemes of empires in this action-packed series opener.

Safiya and Iseult are an unlikely pair. Safi, the hotheaded daughter of an impoverished but noble family, is a Truthwitch, born with the rare ability to tell if someone is telling the truth or lying. Quiet Iseult is a Nomatsi Threadwitch, despised for her ethnic identity but gifted with the ability to perceive the emotions of others as colored threads. When the two friends become fugitives from the law, they decide to flee together, not realizing that Safi’s witchery has already made them targets in a larger political struggle. Dennard (Strange and Ever After, 2014, etc.) jumps from alternate history with zombies to epic fantasy with this new series. Her worldbuilding is impressively detailed, though neither the vaguely European setting nor the magic system breaks much new ground. The cinematic action scenes keep the storytelling brisk, and the rotating third-person narration introduces not only Safi and Iseult, but also Merik, the prince of an impoverished small nation, and Aeduan, a mercenary. The overall characterization is uneven, but readers captivated by the intense friendships and burgeoning romances will probably be happy to overlook the novel’s flaws.

Epic adventure and steamy smooches make for a crowd-pleasing formula. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7928-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell...

SIX OF CROWS

Adolescent criminals seek the haul of a lifetime in a fantasyland at the beginning of its industrial age.

The dangerous city of Ketterdam is governed by the Merchant Council, but in reality, large sectors of the city are given over to gangs who run the gambling dens and brothels. The underworld's rising star is 17-year-old Kaz Brekker, known as Dirtyhands for his brutal amorality. Kaz walks with chronic pain from an old injury, but that doesn't stop him from utterly destroying any rivals. When a councilman offers him an unimaginable reward to rescue a kidnapped foreign chemist—30 million kruge!—Kaz knows just the team he needs to assemble. There's Inej, an itinerant acrobat captured by slavers and sold to a brothel, now a spy for Kaz; the Grisha Nina, with the magical ability to calm and heal; Matthias the zealot, hunter of Grishas and caught in a hopeless spiral of love and vengeance with Nina; Wylan, the privileged boy with an engineer's skills; and Jesper, a sharpshooter who keeps flirting with Wylan. Bardugo broadens the universe she created in the Grisha Trilogy, sending her protagonists around countries that resemble post-Renaissance northern Europe, where technology develops in concert with the magic that's both coveted and despised. It’s a highly successful venture, leaving enough open questions to cause readers to eagerly await Volume 2.

Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell into a family . (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-212-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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