So bespelling that the cliffhanger ending will feel like a painful curse.

ALL OF US VILLAINS

From the All of Us Villains series , Vol. 1

A bloody tournament will determine whose family controls the only high magick in the world.

Until someone spilled the city of Ilvernath’s dark secret in the anonymously authored book A Tradition of Tragedy, the world thought that the high magick was gone. Instead, seven families are locked into a curse tournament, providing a child every 20 years to fight for exclusive control over it. Rotating third-person narration follows monstrous favorite Alistair (of the sinister and most winningest Lowe family), paparazzi darling and talented spellmaker Isobel (of the Macaslan family, who are viewed as distasteful vultures), brains-and-brawn underdog Gavin (of the Grieve family, a lost cause that’s never produced a winner), and born-for-heroism Briony (of the respected Thorburn family). Prior to the tournament’s starting, exquisite worldbuilding shines as the characters navigate family stories and outsiders trying to influence the tournament and deal with the spellmakers and cursemakers who equip the champions. One cursemaker in particular puts ideas in the aspiring champions’ heads about whether the tournament’s curse can be changed—or broken. The competitors teeter wildly between heroism and villainy, especially once the tournament starts and their preconceived ideas of themselves and each other are challenged in lethal combat. Of the seven champions, Finley has dark skin and curly black hair, while the rest are pale; among background characters there’s ethnic diversity and casual queer inclusion.

So bespelling that the cliffhanger ending will feel like a painful curse. (Fantasy. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-78925-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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