The start of what promises to be a tumultuous, visionary fantasy series.



From the Elk Riders series , Vol. 1

Neill’s (City on a Hill, 2014) fantasy features a teenage girl on a quest to save her island tribe from the designs of a militant fleet.

Fourteen-year-old Gabriella Carlyle is from the island of Harkness. Her 11-year-old brother, Dameon, is fluent with numbers but a social outcast due to his inward nature. One day, he’s counting grains of sand while Gabriella and her friend, Eloise, are harvesting mussels by the shore. They witness the arrival of a formidable-looking vessel, and the cloaked men who disembark seem rough and ready for battle. The leader of the island, Chief Salinger, greets one of the men, Sade, who’s part of a group called the Servior. Sade explains that the visitors hope to purchase land next to the Tower of the Dead, which stands as a portal between life and the afterlife. When the villagers perform a ritual to consult with their ancestors, the dead speak through Gabriella and reveal that “the Servior...those whom they serve are treacherous.” A loner named Omanuju Ant decides to help Gabriella find the treasure of Nicomedes on the far-flung Eastern Continent, which may thwart Sade and his men; in return, perhaps the dead will heal Dameon. In this opening installment of a vigorously imagined series, Neill delivers an epic that’s as grand as it is brief. Episodic brilliance characterizes Gabriella and Omanuju’s adventures, such as when they befriend Ghede, who pilots the floating ship Elawn—and a dragon race ensues. Alternating chapters flash back to Sade and his younger brother, Vondales, growing up as orphans on the island of Illicaine and later becoming teenage savages on a sharp rise to power. Neill’s prose is often beautiful, as when Gabriella “could make out the shape of undulating hills and ridges silhouetted against the spray of stars.” Alongside frequent scenes of brutality, there are dear instances of wisdom, as when Omanuju says, “Sometimes when we find a person hard to love, the failure is in us, rather than them.” A finale featuring deft, magical weirdness only elevates the narrative further.

The start of what promises to be a tumultuous, visionary fantasy series.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2016


Page Count: 187

Publisher: Tenebray

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2016

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An atmospheric and creepy page-turner.


Seventeen-year-old Anna Cicconi finds herself in the middle of a mystery when she takes a summer nanny job in the swanky Hamptons enclave of Herron Hills.

Frick begins her story at the end. Well, sort of. August in the Hamptons signals the turning of the leaves and sees the grisly discovery of 19-year-old Zoe Spanos’ body. Zoe disappeared on New Year’s Eve, and Anna, who happens to strongly resemble her, has confessed to her murder. However, Martina Green, who runs the podcast Missing Zoe, doesn’t believe Anna did it and attempts to find out what really happened. Flash back to June: Hard-partying recent high school grad Anna sees her new job caring for Tom and Emilia Bellamy’s 8-year-old daughter as a fresh start. As one sun-drenched day melts into the next, Anna is drawn to Windemere, the neighboring Talbots’ looming, Gothic-style home, and to the brooding, mysterious Caden Talbot. But Anna can’t shake a feeling of déjà vu, and she’s having impossible memories that intertwine her life with Zoe’s. Frick easily juggles multiple narratives, and readers will enjoy connecting the dots of her cleverly plotted thriller inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. Anna and Zoe are white; the supporting cast includes biracial characters Martina (Latinx/white) and Caden (black/white). Caden discusses grappling with being raised by white adoptive parents, facing racialized suspicion as Zoe’s boyfriend, and feeling marginalized at Yale.

An atmospheric and creepy page-turner. (map) (Thriller. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4970-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.


For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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