A jampacked, overly plotted series opener that fails to coalesce.

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INCENDIARY

From the Incendiary series , Vol. 1

A powerful young woman struggles to save her kingdom from a megalomaniac and redeem her past mistakes.

Renata is a Moria—a person with magical powers—in an Inquisition-type world where people with these abilities are persecuted and killed. When she was a girl, Renata was taken from her parents and used to steal memories from the king’s enemies. Now, years later, she’s a member of the Whispers, a secret group working to overthrow the royal family and rescue the Moria from genocide. After a tragic turn of events, Renata must go back to the palace to fight the enemy from within. There, she struggles with her loyalty to the Whispers and falling back into old habits. With a faulty magical system and a mishmash of tropes, this incoherent fantasy never quite finds its footing. The dialogue is wooden, the prose is overwritten, and the characterization lacks nuance. Renata is a querulous protagonist who simultaneously acts helpless while also taking on the mantle of saving her world with her excellent fighting skills and quick thinking. Córdova (A Crash of Fate, 2019, etc.) tries to do too much—a historical setting, spycraft, a doomed romance, a plot to cure the Moria of their powers, and even a Stockholm syndrome thread—and doesn’t quite succeed at any of them. Most characters are brown skinned and have Spanish surnames.

A jampacked, overly plotted series opener that fails to coalesce. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02380-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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