MERMAID MOON

Printz Award honoree Cokal (The Kingdom of Little Wounds, 2013, etc.) switches from historical fiction to historical fantasy in this loose reinterpretation of Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”

The Thirty-Seven Dark Islands, remote and Scandinavian, are prosperous and bustling. Ruled by the (uncannily) long-lived Baroness Thyrla, watched over by Our Lady of the Sea, an ostensibly Christian statue, this is a place where little changes until a mysterious girl comes ashore. Half-seavish Sanna has grown up a marreminde but longs to find her landish mother. She studied magic in order to form legs and search the land, directed by her flok’s ancient witch. Literary writing stuffed with interesting if ancillary historical detail moves through several perspectives. Sanna, despite her strong magic and the narrative’s centering of her quest for her mother, tends toward immense passivity; Thyrla, a wicked witch who has killed her own children to prolong her life, propels most of the plot, such as it is, and more time is spent in characters’ heads than with their actions or interactions. Questions of power, vanity, and faith are raised, if not always resolved, making this a book suitable for deep reading although unlikely to have wide appeal. Other options trawl similar territory more effectively, particularly Elana K. Arnold’s Damsel (2018) and Margo Lanagan’s The Brides of Rollrock Island (2012). All characters are white; the mermaid society is bisexual by default.

Intriguing if flawed. (historical note) (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0959-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s.

GRIS GRIMLY'S FRANKENSTEIN

A slightly abridged graphic version of the classic that will drive off all but the artist’s most inveterate fans.

Admirers of the original should be warned away by veteran horror artist Bernie Wrightson’s introductory comments about Grimly’s “wonderfully sly stylization” and the “twinkle” in his artistic eye. Most general readers will founder on the ensuing floods of tiny faux handwritten script that fill the opening 10 pages of stage-setting correspondence (other lengthy letters throughout are presented in similarly hard-to-read typefaces). The few who reach Victor Frankenstein’s narrative will find it—lightly pruned and, in places, translated into sequences of largely wordless panels—in blocks of varied length interspersed amid sheaves of cramped illustrations with, overall, a sickly, greenish-yellow cast. The latter feature spidery, often skeletal figures that barrel over rough landscapes in rococo, steampunk-style vehicles when not assuming melodramatic poses. Though the rarely seen monster is a properly hard-to-resolve jumble of massive rage and lank hair, Dr. Frankenstein looks like a decayed Lyle Lovett with high cheekbones and an errant, outsized quiff. His doomed bride, Elizabeth, sports a white lock à la Elsa Lanchester, and decorative grotesqueries range from arrangements of bones and skull-faced flowers to bunnies and clownish caricatures.

Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s. (Graphic classic. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-186297-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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An adventurous and relevant fantasy that strives for gold but settles, in the end, for silver.

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THE GILDED ONES

From the Deathless series , Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Deka seeks acceptance and absolution.

Every year adolescent girls in the patriarchal kingdom of Otera prepare for the Ritual of Purity that determines whether they can join their communities as pure-blooded women or be cast out and branded impure monsters. Brown-skinned, gray-eyed Deka yearns to prove she belongs, but when her blood runs gold, she’s revealed to be an alaki—a near-immortal woman warrior—and is carted away to become the front line of defense for the people who’ve discarded her. With measured focus, debut author Forna creates a provocative world filled with fantastical creatures, centuries-old divine conflict, and overt feminist messaging around gender inequity and “purity.” Also compelling is Forna’s ability to capture feelings tugging on the consciences of many, telling them they are unworthy of life, liberty, and unconditional love because of who they are. The character development is a bit superficial, unfurling quickly with movie montage–like speed. There is celebration of diverse body types, some peripheral queer representation, and ethnic diversity that roughly correlates with the real world (e.g. a character called Li is from the East, and Northerners have pink skin and blond hair). The plot-twist climax is hinted at throughout the book, held just out of reach until the pieces fall neatly together. Unfortunately, the energy then peters out for the falling action and epilogue.

An adventurous and relevant fantasy that strives for gold but settles, in the end, for silver. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984848-69-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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