MOON DARK SMILE

Names hold utmost power throughout the empire; Raliel Dark-Smile, who chose her own, will come to know this better than any.

Raliel has forged herself into the ideal Heir, perfect and perfectly detached. She does not know who she is, but she knows what she wants: something she has earned on her own rather than things she has simply been given. She has an unbreakable, ineffable bond with Moon, the palace demon, and while she knows that her family chooses to remain bound to their roles, she wants Moon to have a choice, too. As Raliel sets out on her Heir’s Journey, accompanied only by Moon and Osian Redpop, a charming guard who is more than he seems, she comes to learn about not only her empire, but the true power—and danger—of a name. Identity, fluidity, and choice lie at the heart of this dense, darkly mystical companion to Gratton’s Night Shine (2020) that is best appreciated by those familiar with the earlier volume. It is a tapestry of self-discovery, redolent with vivid imagery: sometimes cloyingly ornate, sometimes breathlessly pithy. Some sections feel dreamlike, whereas others throb with life. The plot, transparent through its manifold layers, takes a back seat to the forging of relationships between the characters and the (at times heavy-handed) dismantling of the dualities that bind characters to false versions of themselves. Most characters present some form of queer identity; they are diverse in appearance.

Sensual and strange. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9815-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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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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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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