An astutely written tale that eschews fantasy melodrama to explore social dynamics.

MAGGIE TURNCOAT

AND THE EMPIRE OF CHAINS

After her father is executed by a mad queen, a girl uses magic to fight for the oppressed in this YA fantasy debut.

Dravon Galain, a former captain in the queen’s military, is about to be executed. He kneels before a crowd in the castle courtyard, which is surrounded by Dawn’s Gate, the capital of the High Desert kingdom. His wife, Audrie, and their daughters, 10-year-old Tris and 14-year-old Maggie, look on in horror, sure that Dravon isn’t the turncoat the queen believes he is. After the killing by firing squad, Dravon’s corpse is left in the courtyard. Maggie sneaks in and takes his military jacket, vowing to clear his name. She fastens the single button left on the coat and “vanishes without a sound.” Though magic is mostly gone from the world, Maggie is whisked into a dark, strange realm. She eventually wakes in an alley by the castle and receives help from Elly Babblewatts, a teenage tinkerer. Maggie soon learns that she and her family must hide from angry mobs and the queen’s hunters, called Shadow Lurkers. Thanks to the teleporting coat, she gains a reputation as a powerful witch. Eventually, she unites with oppressed people in the kingdom, including Salavan of the Lost Sabers tribe. Will they be enough to end the queen’s “empire of chains”? Miller’s series opener brings readers into a world rife with social ills, including “indentured child workers” and a queen who enslaves those critical of her governance. Maggie gradually learns more about her magical coat, traveling frequently to the eerily beautiful “Sorrow's Deep,” which provides one of the principal narrative thrills (“She finds that her vertical momentum does not carry to the next world, but horizontal momentum is maintained”). At times, the large cast and the detailed society of the author’s worldbuilding crowd out his protagonist. The reward for readers is an intriguing, fragile allied force—including the priestess Mos Marry, who wants magic eliminated—that may prove troublesome for Maggie even if the contingent topples the queen. The final scene offers a shocking moment that’s hopefully addressed in the sequel.

An astutely written tale that eschews fantasy melodrama to explore social dynamics.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 979-8503395259

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Independently Published

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic.

ALL OUR HIDDEN GIFTS

An Irish teen grapples with past misdeeds and newfound ties to magic.

When 16-year-old Maeve discovers a deck of tarot cards stashed with a mixtape of moody indie music from 1990, she starts giving readings for her classmates at her all-girls private school. Though her shame over dumping her strange friend Lily during an attempt to climb the social ladder at St. Bernadette’s is still palpable, it doesn’t stop her from trying to use the tarot in her favor to further this goal. However, after speaking harsh words to Lily during a reading, Maeve is horrified when her former friend later disappears. As she struggles to understand the forces at play within her, classmate Fiona proves to be just the friend Maeve needs. Detailed, interesting characters carry this contemporary story of competing energy and curses. Woven delicately throughout are chillingly eerie depictions of the Housekeeper, a figure who shows up on an extra card in the deck, echoing the White Lady legend from Irish folklore. Even more disturbing is an organization of young people led by a homophobic but charismatic figurehead intent on provoking backlash against Ireland’s recent civil rights victories. Most characters are White; Fiona is biracial, with a Filipina mother and White Irish father. Roe, Maeve’s love interest and Lily’s sibling, is a bisexual, genderqueer person who is a target for intolerance in their small city of Kilbeg.

An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1394-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Part cautionary tale, part juicy love story, this will appeal to action and adventure fans who aren't yet sick of the genre.

SHATTER ME

A dystopic thriller joins the crowded shelves but doesn't distinguish itself.

Juliette was torn from her home and thrown into an asylum by The Reestablishment, a militaristic regime in control since an environmental catastrophe left society in ruins. Juliette’s journal holds her tortured thoughts in an attempt to repress memories of the horrific act that landed her in a cell. Mysteriously, Juliette’s touch kills. After months of isolation, her captors suddenly give her a cellmate—Adam, a drop-dead gorgeous guy. Adam, it turns out, is immune to her deadly touch. Unfortunately, he’s a soldier under orders from Warner, a power-hungry 19-year-old. But Adam belongs to a resistance movement; he helps Juliette escape to their stronghold, where she finds that she’s not the only one with superhuman abilities. The ending falls flat as the plot devolves into comic-book territory. Fast-paced action scenes convey imminent danger vividly, but there’s little sense of a broader world here. Overreliance on metaphor to express Juliette’s jaw-dropping surprise wears thin: “My mouth is sitting on my kneecaps. My eyebrows are dangling from the ceiling.” For all of her independence and superpowers, Juliette never moves beyond her role as a pawn in someone else’s schemes.

Part cautionary tale, part juicy love story, this will appeal to action and adventure fans who aren't yet sick of the genre. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-208548-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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