Family bonds create the magic in this stirring fantasy.


This debut YA novel sees two black identical twins discover their magical lineage.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, twins Arden and Aurora are about to turn 18 years old. Their mother is Selene Bryant, a famous Jamaican opera singer who has retired to finally settle down with her daughters. When Selene is called to London for an emergency fill-in performance, Aurora is incensed. The teen decides to throw a “legendary” party, to which the bookish Arden is not invited. During the party, a handsome 21-year-old named Devin is drawn to Arden’s closed bedroom door. She soon begins to read his thoughts, realizing that “his want for me travels from his body into my own like waves in an ocean.” Soon the twins’ godfather, Leo, breaks up the party. He informs them that Selene has disappeared overseas. What the girls don’t know is that their grandmother Ghani has been empowered with immortality and a vision for justice by the Fates. Her husband, Ezekiel, hates the notion of powerful women as well as the institutional racism plaguing black men. He plans to steal the celestial power from his wife and their gifted children, then use it to help black men dominate society. Arden and Aurora sneak off to London, unaware that they’re embroiled in their family’s generational war. Williams’ fantasy with a diverse cast introduces a few intense topics, like racism and female oppression, but doesn't explore them at length. The story’s emotional weight comes mostly from the chapters narrated by Aurora, who believes she is the inferior twin unworthy of her talented mother’s love and that Selene has betrayed her daughters. In one bleakly revealing line, the girl says that men are “basically just mirrors who pay for the tickets to where I want to go.” Engaging characters—like the twins’ cousins Lilo and Liberty and the space-folding Aunt Kiara—help the protagonists, perhaps too well. Great swaths of plot open with each new meeting, and the powerful twins (along with readers) are told far more than they’re shown. Nevertheless, continuous revelations keep the optimistic tale humming, and the cast is in fine shape for a sequel.

Family bonds create the magic in this stirring fantasy.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68463-032-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.


This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Familiar territory plumbed afresh; fantasy fans should be pleased.


From the The Kingmakers' War series , Vol. 1

A girl who has been dismissed and distrusted for most of her life must prove herself in this quest novel.

Briand Varryda dresses like a boy and is the unwanted ward of her uncle. Denied education and often even food, she realizes that her only friends are her cousin Bran and, sometimes, the soldier Tibus. Briand can look after herself: She’s good with a knife and light on her feet. But this time, she’s in real trouble. Briand has cleaned out one soldier too many at the card game Dubbok. When Tibus saves her from vengeful pursuers, he has no choice but to then turn her over to Kael, steward of her uncle’s castle—who has a reputation for cruelty and who, with the help of Bran’s loathsome tutor, Nath, is conducting secret experiments involving young noblemen and poisonous snakes. Kael gives her one last chance. Briand tries to go straight; she attempts to do the right thing. But when she intervenes in one of Kael’s experiments, she gets more than she bargained for. By passing a test meant for Bran, Briand becomes a “dragonsayer,” with “the ability to speak to and sometimes control animals of magic, particularly dragons.” From despised guttersnipe, she has now risen to being the kingdom’s last hope against the usurper prince and his deadly Seekers—but that’s no reason for her companions to think any better of her. In this short novel, Ellison (With Tide and Tempest, 2014, etc.) takes fantasy tropes and makes them feel original. The same achievement can be seen in characterization. Briand and all the others are easily recognizable types but still seem unique. Briand, in particular, is somehow not the typical orphan who makes good. This is made possible by the author’s no-nonsense prose and pacing and some astute worldbuilding. The necessary background details (with the exception of some that find their way into speech) are foreshadowed rather than dumped. This allows Briand to forge her own path and for the story to grip and take hold. Although this is the first book in a series, the plot is largely self-contained. Readers will be left with closure but still wanting more.

Familiar territory plumbed afresh; fantasy fans should be pleased.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5028-7264-7

Page Count: 286

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

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