A tightly written tale that, after a slow start, grounds itself in engaging, mysterious lore.


A debut YA SF novel about a young woman coming to terms with her destiny.

On 22nd-century Earth, 17-year-old Evren’s upbringing has centered on the unalterable fact that she will someday serve as the 12th and final Paladin—a human chosen as a physical vessel for the Leviathans, a powerful, mysterious alien species. In the opening pages, Coughlin introduces this species as “gods among men,” with a goal to “save Earth and push humans into their next state of evolution.” Evren undergoes rigorous physical training to prepare her body for its purpose, and Coughlin introduces her in early sections as a determined young woman who, despite her singularity of purpose, shows a healthy curiosity about the world around her—a perspective that’s often at odds with that of her mother, Ignis, who leads Nexum, the organization working to prepare Evren for her fate. Early on, the novel falls into the common fantasy-genre pitfall of introducing the world’s mythology too quickly instead of slowly peeling back its layers as the story goes on. However, once the novel starts hinting at mysterious forces that seek to prevent Leviathans from merging with Paladins, Coughlin’s writing tightens up considerably—particularly after another Paladin is found dead. From there, the teenage protagonist—and the reader—starts learning more about Nexum, and her increased knowledge coincides with her doubts about her mother’s role in her life. Soon, her relationships with other Nexum trainees effectively take center stage, and the work settles into a well-paced mystery plot. Throughout, the secrets of the Leviathans, and their mystical relationship to humans, loom enticingly in the background, waiting to be revealed.

A tightly written tale that, after a slow start, grounds itself in engaging, mysterious lore.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2021

ISBN: 979-8476314745

Page Count: 251

Publisher: Darkstroke Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2021

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Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes.


From the Six Crimson Cranes series , Vol. 1

Girl meets magic. Hijinks ensue.

Shiori’anma, Princess of Kiata and eldest daughter of Emperor Hanariho, is the intrepid protagonist in this folktale retelling. About to turn 17 and be married off to a third-rank barbarian lord, Shiori desperately looks for ways out of the engagement. Her emerging talents in forbidden magic and a run-in with a young shape-shifting dragon help to pass the time before she is doomed to relocate to the cold North. Things take an even worse turn, however, when she uncovers her stepmother’s secrets. As a consequence, her six brothers are cursed into assuming the form of cranes by day. Shiori is whisked away and coerced into silence, for every word that escapes her lips will mean the death of one of her brothers. She must learn to survive on her own and use her wits and hard-won experience to save both her family and country. Readers here revisit the East Asian–inspired world established in Lim’s The Blood of Stars duology. Despite a few hiccups in the logic of the magic, the author cleverly maintains the basic structure of this well-known European folktale type while weaving in rich elements of Asian mythology, including dragon pearls and the goddess of the moon. The exploration of complicated family dynamics is a particular strength, especially the challenging of the evil stepmother cliché.

Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30091-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes.


From the Aurelian Cycle series , Vol. 1

What happens to the world after the dust from a revolution has settled?

Friends Annie and Lee were children from very different circles when Atreus killed Lee’s father, dragonlord Leon Stormscourge, ending the uprising on the bloodiest day in Callipolis’ history. For too long the dragonriders held all the power while their people starved and lived in fear. Nine years later, a new generation of dragonriders is emerging, children selected and trained on merit, not bloodlines. Their dragons are finally mature enough for them to compete for Firstrider, a position of power that can give Lee back a small part of what his family lost. However, not only is Lee competing against Annie, but rumors are circulating that some of the royal family have survived and have dragons of their own. Everyone will have to make a choice: Restore the old regime, support the First Protector and the new caste system he created, or look for a new way, no matter what the cost. From the beginning, this book pulls readers in with political intrigue and action. What keeps them invested, however, are the complex relationships between many cast members. Choices are complex, and the consequences for all could be deadly. The world is well fleshed out and believable. Annie and Lee are light skinned; secondary characters are diverse, and race is a nonissue in this world.

Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes. (author’s note) (Fantasy.14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51821-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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