Read it for the suspenseful plot, but look elsewhere for the facts.

READ REVIEW

SWEET MADNESS

Interest in Lizzie Borden, tried and acquitted in the brutal 1892 murder of her father and stepmother, has never flagged; this fictional retelling depicts the unsolved crime from the perspective of the family’s live-in, Irish-immigrant maid, Bridget Sullivan.

Andrew Borden rules his household through tightfisted micromanagement and intimidation; his second wife, Abigail, passive and reclusive, communicates via written lists; Emma, Lizzie’s older sister, is seldom home. Lizzie, lonely, unstable, and combative, has attached herself to Bridget, following her when she leaves the house. Bridget’s grateful for her friendship and help with chores, but she finds Lizzie’s sleepwalking, spying, and screaming matches with her father deeply upsetting. Bridget’s fiance, Liam, wants her to quit, but she’s reluctant to leave a well-paid job. Lizzie reminds Bridget of her mentally disabled sister, Cara, for whose condition she feels responsible. While the portrait of the claustrophobic, creepy Borden household and its denizens, Lizzie especially, is grippingly vivid, Bridget herself is problematic. As a domestic, she’s less than credible. Her contemporary vocabulary full of breezy colloquialisms (“I didn’t buy it” (expressing skepticism); “you owe me”; “I’d stashed it”) bears little resemblance to the real Bridget’s plain speech (well-documented in trial transcripts). Lizzie holds the power in this unequal relationship; her inconsistent, abusive treatment renders Bridget’s tolerant affection puzzling and its rationale weak.

Read it for the suspenseful plot, but look elsewhere for the facts. (Historical fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4405-8894-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Merit Press

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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