M IS FOR MONSTER

Electrifying, swiftly moving, and full of life.

A Frankenstein-inspired graphic novel that explores how expectations get in the way of creation.

Grief-stricken and remorseful, scientist Frances “Frankie” Ai attempts to resurrect her younger sister, Maura, several months after she died in an experiment gone awry. After taking apart Maura’s body, stitching her up, and jolting her with a lightning-powered contraption in their home laboratory, Frances awakens a monster. She is surprised to discover that the monster, M, has no memory of her sister’s life before the accident. Though M and Gin Ivanov, Frances’ nonbinary spouse, have their reservations, Frances is determined to keep trying to bring back the sister she remembers. Settling into Maura’s old bedroom, the monster is startled by Maura’s ghost—whom only she is able to see—emerging from a mirror and announcing that M is wearing her body. The ghost agrees to help the monster behave more like Maura in order to stop Frances from taking her apart again. In exchange, Maura’s ghost can continue her research, talk to Frances, and live vicariously through M. Dutton pairs her rich storytelling and expressive characters with bold illustrations that evoke the mid-20th century and are executed in a palette of teal, black, and white. Sewn up with a powerful ending, this debut is a deftly paced, satisfying read. The Ai sisters read as Chinese; Gin appears White.

Electrifying, swiftly moving, and full of life. (Graphic science fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4197-6220-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Surely Books/Abrams ComicArts

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

A TEMPEST OF TEA

From the Blood and Tea series , Vol. 1

Crowd-pleasing fun laced with political fire: a winner.

Bestselling author Faizal returns to the universe of We Hunt the Flame (2019) with a stand-alone duology opener.

Orphaned Arthie, brown-skinned with mauve hair, has created a criminal empire out of sheer pluck despite being Ceylani in Ettenia, where laws favor white people. She pulled legendary pistol Calibore from a stone plinth (though the prophecy that doing so would make her the nation’s leader turned out to be a hoax). She’s also built Spindrift, a teahouse-cum-bloodhouse, where she gathers secrets from wealthy humans and vampires, amassing power and security. Now Arthie has her sights set on vengeance—and the Ram, Ettenia’s masked monarch. When she and Jin, her brother-by-choice (who’s cued East Asian), are drawn into a heist, they assemble a diverse crew of immigrants whose roles riff on genre archetypes. The lush prose pulses with feeling as revelations are dropped and the tension ratchets up, keeping the pages turning as the motley gang plans to infiltrate a vampire society, retrieve a stolen ledger, and double-cross one of the Ram’s guards (who might be planning to double-cross them). Their ultimate goal: taking down the colonizing Ettenians and the exploitative East Jeevant Company. It’s all very exciting right up to the action-packed finale, which promises more conspiracy and (hopefully) justice to come. This compelling read offers interesting commentary on our society while feeling entirely real within the context of its own worldbuilding.

Crowd-pleasing fun laced with political fire: a winner. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9780374389406

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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