An often vivid fantasy tale, although its verbosity sometimes works against it.



From the Iridescent Fury series , Vol. 1

This YA fantasy series starter features a princess who ventures into forbidden territory on a quest to understand her father’s uncharacteristic behavior.

After Frederick Vox, king of Equadoria, returns from a trip to the south, he unsuccessfully tries to kill his 16-year-old daughter, Princess Ariadae. He’s always been a loving, doting parent, so Ariadae is determined to figure out what’s responsible for the change in him. She believes that the answer lies in Elkwood Forest, a swath of wilderness that she’s been forbidden to enter because her mother was murdered at its border years ago. On her travels, she takes Jeremiah, her 18-year-old best friend; Snow, her white tiger; and trained sentinels Zube, Gaston, and Novid. As they traverse Elkwood, Ariadae is shocked to find legendary, monstrous creatures called the Forsaken there. Attacks by savage Wood Nymphs and Wendigos fracture the party, and after one battle, Zube suspects that the princess may have latent telekinetic skills of which she isn’t aware. Eventually, Ariadae becomes separated from her companions and wakes up in the hidden city of Flori. It’s a melting pot of magical peoples ruled by the cruel High Lady Evaflora, who uses a spell to keep her citizens docile. Here, the princess meets Lunan, High Lord of Solis, who believes that Evaflora wants to restart a war between Mortal and Immortal races. For his debut novel, James walks a well-trod fantasy path, full of magical beings and prophecy, but he does so with formidable vision. The scenes often possess an eldritch allure, as when Ariadae views a mosaic that features three figures and “long crackling fingers of lightning that scatter...bright, jagged lines studded with sapphire and lapis lazuli.” The plot twists, including one that’s quite substantial, bring agility to the narrative and a sense of wonder. James’ prose, however, sometimes excessively lingers on his heroine’s first-person perspective, filtering everything through her emotional turmoil. For example, when someone else is shot with an arrow, the princess thinks, “now I know what pain is.” Still, this opening volume sets up a sturdy foundation for more action to come.

An often vivid fantasy tale, although its verbosity sometimes works against it.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-58271-9

Page Count: 500

Publisher: Zachary James Novels

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2020

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.


From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...


From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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