Though flawed, the story provides a thought-provoking metaphor for crucial conflicts of adolescence, as have its...

ALLEGIANT

From the Divergent series , Vol. 3

Does identity come from biology, upbringing or our own choices? The question becomes urgently concrete in the bleak final entry of this blockbuster dystopian trilogy.

After the explosive climax of Insurgent (2012), Tris, Tobias (or “Four”) and their friends manage to escape a city torn between the tyranny of the factionless and the uprising of the Allegiant, who want to restore virtue-based divisions. Once outside, they run into the Bureau, which secretly controls the city as a generations-long experiment in healing “genetic damage.” Revelations pile upon revolutions, revenge fights with reconciliation, until Tris and Tobias are each led to their ultimate choices—where courage, selflessness, peace, wisdom and truth converge into love. Tris and Tobias alternate narrating brief chapters in unfortunately indistinguishable voices. Their choppy, staccato prose, interspersed with occasional arresting images, is a style well suited to the opening and closing sections of dramatic action but only accentuates the dragging pace of the repetitive, overstuffed middle. While the “science” behind the Bureau’s machinations is impossible gobbledygook, the corrosive effects of bigotry ring painfully true. The tragic conclusion, although shocking, is thematically consistent; the bittersweet epilogue offers a poignant hope.

Though flawed, the story provides a thought-provoking metaphor for crucial conflicts of adolescence, as have its predecessors. (Dystopian adventure. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-202406-0

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 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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