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A nuanced story with a cast readers will cheer for.

Talon struggles to follow his brother’s goal of bringing peace to Pyrlanum in this duology closer following 2023’s Chaos & Flame.

After Caspian, regent of House Dragon, declared an end to the Dragons’ imperialistic war, he transformed himself and Darling into an empyreal dragon and phoenix, respectively. Talon, Caspian’s brother, is left to keep the unstable peace, while the Dragons refuse to return their captured lands and the newly released magical boons cause chaos across Pyrlanum. When his aunt Aurora and her cursed blood magic threaten the newly awakened empyreal regents, Talon races to stop her. Darling, reeling from both brothers’ betrayal, struggles to keep hold of herself against the powerful pull of the phoenix that forces her on its own unknown quest. The ongoing storyline about ending the war is well developed, and it depicts the difficulties of handling reparations, demilitarization, and establishing diplomatic relations in the wake of bloodshed. The positioning of empyreals as blood heirs and guardians of Chaos is intriguing and creates an original and deep magic system. Likewise, the mystique surrounding the phoenix provides shocking twists. While the side characters are interesting, they lack development; still, Darling’s and Talon’s stories are gripping and inspire empathy, especially with their explorations of self and grief. Darling’s gradual change in emotions is understandable, resulting in a realistic slow-burn romance; readers may feel Talon comes across as too steadfast. The characters are varied in physical appearance.

A nuanced story with a cast readers will cheer for. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780593353356

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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