In spite of the shortcomings, loyal fans will still enjoy the (predictably) happy ending.

INTO THE STILL BLUE

From the Under the Never Sky series , Vol. 3

This conclusion to the Under the Never Sky trilogy begins as increasingly destructive electromagnetic Aether storms ravage the landscape.

Desperate, Perry and Aria decide to use hovercraft to transport the surviving members of the Tides tribe and the Dweller population to the mythic Still Blue, a region rumored to be free of storms. Hijacking the hovercraft from the bloodthirsty rival Horn tribe leader’s control will require combining Aria’s Dweller technological knowledge with Perry’s Tides wilderness survival skills. But uniting the Dwellers and Tides demands painful personal sacrifices from the two inexperienced young leaders. Here, the inventive worldbuilding of the first two novels is replaced by a heavy reliance on contrivances—the origin of the Aether storms is too easily explained, yet the improbable existence of the Still Blue remains mysterious. The novel focuses largely on Perry’s and Aria’s struggles to balance their personal feelings with their leadership responsibilities. Unfortunately, their increasingly repetitive inner monologues, while believable, offer few surprises for returning readers. The attempts at increasing suspense by injecting jealous tension between Perry and Aria falls flat, as the previous novels so firmly established their strong commitment to each other. Several other emotional moments, including a revelation about Aria’s father, feel more distractingly melodramatic than necessary.

In spite of the shortcomings, loyal fans will still enjoy the (predictably) happy ending. (Science fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-207209-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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