A fast-paced, sparkling fantasy for tweens in which great wish fulfillment entails great responsibility.

KINGDOM OF THE SILVER CAT

1

From the Sapphire Fruit Chronicles series

In this debut middle-grade fantasy novel, a group of children are transported to another world, where they face dragon fire and huge buzzards with the help of new magical powers.

One day in fictional Annaberry, New York, a school bus full of kids drives through a mysterious blue light. Suddenly, it’s in the middle of a deserted field with no apparent signs of modern civilization. After the bus driver leaves, never to return, the 15 third-through-eighth graders are on their own in a land called Hevelen—a place that seems charming and menacing, by turns. There are luscious fruit trees to feast on, but paths through nearby woods seem to move around on their own, and ghosts emerge from the misty night who have the ability to freeze people stiff. The kids soon gain superpowers, which range from standard-issue comic-book fare (Gabi Miera can fly on her skateboard, Timmy Davin has bursts of exceptional speed; Emma Kadean can turn invisible, and Rhea Morgan can shoot flame from her hands) to more offbeat quirks (Annie Perel can momentarily stop time; Gabrielle’s sister, Cici, can create large pink bubbles; Ted Wallis can make music by waving his hands; and Josh Hester, the group’s natural leader, is invulnerable to others’ magic). The kids are attacked by rarewars—giant condors who try to fly them to the castle of Sidtarr, who wants to collect “gifted ones” like them and use their powers. The kids get help from the Panishie, a tribe of adorable, 6-inch-tall fairies, but they also have to dodge fireballs that emanate from the tower of a dragon master. Some of the kids head north to confront Sidtarr while others go south to find a renowned silver cat that might be able to protect them.

In this first series installment, Thomas Carroll constructs a colorful, Narnia-esque world full of intriguing sights and creatures. With 15 characters jockeying for attention, the novel sometimes feels a bit overcrowded; indeed, it’s not until the kids separate into smaller groups that their personalities have enough room to seem distinct. They each face conflicts and inner crises, owing in part to the fact that their delightful gifts often come with weaknesses, which necessitate agonizing trade-offs; for example, Bobby Forester can sense danger from far away, but it causes him excruciating abdominal cramps. These weaknesses teach the kids tough life lessons about self-sacrifice, risk-taking, trust, and reconciliation. The author’s action scenes are exciting but never traumatic or gory, and his limpid, engaging prose style manages to balance exotic spectacle with down-to-earth practicality: “Rhea frowned. She liked the walking trees, but the snow monkeys gave her the creeps. She had almost smacked one when it slid too close and leered at her with its unblinking eyes.” The result is a fun, engrossing yarn about empowered kids who impressively step up when grown-ups can’t help. The book also includes Jackie Carroll’s black-and-white illustrations of each character; Huang’s small, monochromatic illustrations at the top of each chapter; maps; and a glossary of the Panishie language.

A fast-paced, sparkling fantasy for tweens in which great wish fulfillment entails great responsibility. (maps, glossary)

Pub Date: May 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73309-170-1

Page Count: 407

Publisher: Bowker

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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

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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Sure to please fans of the author and of the vampire-romance genre.

THE BEAUTIFUL

From the Beautiful series , Vol. 1

Forbidden love is tested by suspicion and murder in this latest addition to YA vampire lore.

Celine Rousseau, a French and Asian (mother’s exact origins unknown) seamstress, sails from Europe to America in hopes of leaving her shadowy past behind. En route, she bonds with Pippa, a white English émigrée, and both girls find refuge in an Ursuline convent. Celine’s talent as a couturier leads to a commission from Odette, a beautiful member of the opulent-yet-mysterious Cour des Lions, where students of the occult practice their craft unmolested. Before long, Celine is swept up in a world of mystical forces centering around Sébastien Saint Germain, an enigmatic aristocrat to whom she is irresistibly attracted. When a fellow convent member is found murdered, Celine suspects all her acquaintances, including Sébastien. The novel, wading into the waters of forbidden romance between teenage girl and hunky immortal vampire previously navigated by Buffy Summers and Bella Swan, feels less magical than it should despite the lush Victorian-era New Orleans setting. At times the mounting attraction between Bastien and Celine is told rather than shown, which makes the central relationship feel forced rather than organic and passion filled. Ahdieh (Smoke in the Sun, 2018, etc.) brings New Orleans vibrantly to life, particularly when exploring the complicated racial and gender restrictions of high society through main and supporting characters of mixed-race origin.

Sure to please fans of the author and of the vampire-romance genre. (Fantasy. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3817-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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