The twists and heartbreaks captivate despite tragic inevitabilities.

THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES

From the Hunger Games series , Vol. 4

An origin story for both President Snow and the Hunger Games as we know them.

Coriolanus Snow has the right family name, a prestigious address, talent, and charisma—but unless he wins a prize to pay for university, it’s all for nothing, as his family’s wealth came from the now obliterated District 13. He must succeed in his final project of being a mentor in the Hunger Games, but his District 12 girl tribute assignment at first feels damning. However, Lucy Gray Baird is vibrant and wild, a singer and performer with star power; she’s perfect for Coriolanus, who has been tasked with boosting the grim, lackluster games that, early in the shift from mock war to sporting spectacle, are even more brutal and unpredictable. Coriolanus is pulled between Mengelian Dr. Gaul’s twisted mentorship and connections with sympathetic foils Lucy Gray (which veers romantic) and compassionate classmate Sejanus. Conflicted Coriolanus thinks of himself as a good person in an impossible situation but also as exceptional—a belief with a high price. Collins humanizes him as superficially heroic and emotionally relatable while also using him for a vehicle for philosophical questions. Though readers know how he will eventually answer the questions explicitly asked of him, the central question is why, resulting in both a tense, character-driven piece and a cautionary tale. There is some mention of diversity in skin tone; Coriolanus and Lucy Gray seem to be white.

The twists and heartbreaks captivate despite tragic inevitabilities. (Science fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-63517-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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In the end, it’s just another violent dystopian series opener for all its yellow-brick veneer, but it’s a whole lot more fun...

DOROTHY MUST DIE

When a cyclone deposits a 21st-century Kansas teen in Oz, she and readers discover there’ve been some changes made.

Dirt-poor “Salvation Amy” Gumm lives in a trailer park, effectively parenting her alcoholic mom (her dad ran off years ago), who seems to care more about her pet rat, Star, than her daughter. That doesn’t mean Amy is eager to be in Oz, particularly this Oz. Tyrannized by a megalomaniacal Dorothy and mined of its magic, it’s a dystopian distortion of the paradise Baum and MGM depicted. In short order, Amy breaks the wholly capricious laws and is thrown into a cell in the Emerald City with only Star for company. There, she’s visited first by the mysterious but sympathetic Pete and then by the witch Mombi, who breaks her out and takes her to the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked (among whom is the very hot Nox). Amy may well be the salvation of Oz—only someone from the Other Place can take Dorothy down. Paige has clearly had the time of her life with this reboot, taking a dystopian-romance template and laying it over Oz. Readers of Baum’s books will take special delight in seeing new twists on the old characters, and they will greet the surprise climactic turnabout with the smugness of insiders.

In the end, it’s just another violent dystopian series opener for all its yellow-brick veneer, but it’s a whole lot more fun than many of its ilk. (Dystopian fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-228067-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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

THE CRUEL PRINCE

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

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