Here's hoping for more punk and less steam in the planned sequels.

INNOCENT DARKNESS

From the Aether Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A good concept suffers from poor execution in this steampunk fairy tale.

Noli lives in 1901 Los Angeles, in an alternative Victorian era that allows for steam-powered flying cars and airships, in keeping with steampunk conventions. Caught flying a car without a license, she’s sent to a school in San Francisco that turns out to discipline its students with torture, including waterboarding. There she finds a fairy garden with an old oak tree and inadvertently wishes herself into fairyland. But danger lurks there, too. The fairies need to find a mortal with the “spark” to sacrifice every seven years, or their world will die. Noli fits the bill. Fortunately her best friend turns out to be a fairy prince determined to save her. Noli loves V, the prince, but she’s also attracted to Kevighn, the huntsman. Frequent redundancies and awkward phrasing, coupled with poor transitions, make the prose difficult to follow. Despite the life-or-death dilemma (solved through an absurd coincidence) in fairyland, the narrative flounders, focusing on Noli’s constant indecision between her two lovers (never mind that she firmly decides several times). Lazear emphasizes the difficulties women had in Victorian times quite well, but despite corsets worn on the outside, the clever steampunk angle disappears early. Sadism in the school and torrid if clothed scenes that border on soft porn in the fairyland power much of the narrative.

Here's hoping for more punk and less steam in the planned sequels. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7387-3248-0

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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

CROOKED KINGDOM

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

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