Happily, the many ardent fans waiting for this volume probably won’t mind its snags, they’ll just delight in the feels.

OUR DARK DUET

From the Monsters of Verity series , Vol. 2

In a world where monstrous acts beget actual monsters, what is humanity?

Picking up six months after This Savage Song (2016), this duology conclusion opens with Kate (human, white, deaf in one ear) and August (not human, fair-skinned) separated; he’s in quarantined, monster-ridden supercity Verity, embracing his purpose, which is to reap those who have committed violence. Meanwhile, Kate has escaped to Prosperity, where she’s teamed up with what feels an awful lot like the Scooby Gang of Buffy fame to fight more monsters. The story starts slowly but picks up when Kate returns to Verity on the heels of a monster that breeds violence; the Malchai and Corsai just kill people, and the Sunai reap souls, but the Chaos Eater causes people to turn on one another in acts of unrelenting carnage. Kate joins August and the Flynn Task Force to fight the Chaos Eater and the lead Malchai, and her presence helps August find himself again. The breakneck pacing of the climactic latter half eventually resolves into a poignant ending. Too many peripheral characters—including a nongendered Sunai whose representation is exciting but problematic—and too much time with figurative mustache- (and literal dead-body–) twirling villains detract from what works, although Schwab’s style is on point, as always.

Happily, the many ardent fans waiting for this volume probably won’t mind its snags, they’ll just delight in the feels. (Fantasy/horror. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-238088-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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