A tepid, formulaic fantasy that fails to sufficiently interrogate the issues it raises.

THE GREAT PURSUIT

Following duology opener The Great Hunt (2016), Princess Aerity and her people face another brutal threat in the form of angry Lashed citizens, who are tired of being punished for their ability to do magic.

The royal family of Lochlanach is shocked and dismayed when another bloodthirsty beast appears after the first one was killed with so much effort. Before any plans can be made to defeat the monsters and their creator, Princess Aerity flees for one last goodbye to the man she loves but cannot marry. However, the rebellion is larger and more complicated than she ever suspected, and soon she finds herself face to face with the true enemy—Rozaria Rocato. Rozaria is working with Prince Vito of Kalor, who wants the magic-working Lashed to rise up and defeat all who have oppressed them. The suppression of the Lashed by others provides a template for an exploration of the uses and drawbacks of civil unrest, though the story stays very much on the surface of the topic. Instead, a slightly predictable plot and characterizations keep the book at a superficial simmer. Higgins’ world is a mishmash of tropes, the faux British Lochlans juxtaposed against the exotic Zandalee and Kalorians, who are dark-skinned “tribesmen.” Both maidens and those who have chosen to eschew maidenhood are both chivalrously protected and bravely participatory in the battle.

A tepid, formulaic fantasy that fails to sufficiently interrogate the issues it raises. (Fantasy.13-18)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-238136-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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