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An engrossing tale of monstrous life—human and otherwise.

History comes to undead life in this bloody tale of vampiric vengeance.

When she was mortal, Malinalli spent her days bending to the whims of others in order to survive. A Nahua girl traded away after the birth of her stepfather’s heir, she translated the conquistadors’ demands to the Indigenous communities they destroyed. She bore their leader an heir: Martin, the first mestizo, a child born of rape and colonial conquest. For what she did in the name of survival, history dubbed her “the traitorous La Malinche.” In the 20th century, Malinalli, now an immortal vampire, travels the world on her own terms. Though she still bristles at how easily the modern-day world bandies about the names “Tabasco” and “Cholula”—one the place she first met the Spaniards, the other the site of a bloody massacre carried out by Spanish forces—Castro’s heroine takes some comfort in the knowledge that she persisted where others faded away. "Sometimes the real fight is surviving to tell the tale," she reminds us, "so others can hear it." Her story may be relegated to the margins of history, but she is the only person left alive who saw Mesoamerica forced to bend the knee to its oppressors...or so she thinks. Just as Malinalli starts to believe she might have found a place to put down roots, her past comes into a screeching collision with the present. A bloodthirsty conqueror she knew all those centuries ago survived as well, and he wants revenge. In the hands of a lesser writer, the tale of Malinalli—who was a real-life figure—could have come off as a flat recitation of what little historians know about her. Horror veteran Castro has done a remarkable job here, not only of resurrecting La Malinche, but of turning her into a fully realized, three-dimensional character. Readers meet a woman who scraped by on raw ambition and steely cunning, yet bears the scars of a lifetime of repeated victimization and trauma. Although the author brings a host of other historical actors into play, Castro never wavers in her dedication to, and focus on, Malinalli and her story.

An engrossing tale of monstrous life—human and otherwise.

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN: 9780593499726

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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