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

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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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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.

RED QUEEN

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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A journey into familiar territory with a skilled guide; but here’s hoping that future trips head into the unknown.

WHERE THE DROWNED GIRLS GO

In the seventh Wayward Children tale, students plan to escape from a brutal institution designed to crush the magic out of them.

Cora, a strong swimmer constantly tormented by her peers for her weight, went through an underwater door to the Trenches, a magical undersea world where she was a mermaid and a hero, valued for her bulk and her strength. But a whirlpool spat her out again into our world, leaving her bereft. Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children brought her among other young people who had traveled through a door and returned here, often unwillingly. Cora then passed through another door leading to the creepy world of the Moors, where the sinister Drowned Gods claimed her for their own. Even back at the school, Cora can’t block out their voices or deny their marks on her skin, so she makes the desperate choice to switch to the Whitethorn Institute, which, rather than helping children while they wait for their doors to reappear, encourages them to reject their magical pasts and accept this world as home. Sadly, Cora almost immediately understands that Whitethorn’s philosophy is less about giving its students the strength to move on with their lives and more about breaking their spirits and ruthlessly molding them into a miserable conformity. But dropping out isn’t an option the school offers, and Cora and her friends realize that Whitethorn has more than mundane means at its disposal to keep them there. McGuire’s themes—let people be themselves and don’t treat being fat as some kind of moral failing or physical issue that’s easily addressed—won’t surprise readers of this series and her other works, but her usual arguments remain sound, and she tells a good story. There are also some deeply chilling moments in the experiences of the other students, particularly in the case of a girl cursed by the Rat King to shrink into a nameless rat.

A journey into familiar territory with a skilled guide; but here’s hoping that future trips head into the unknown.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-21362-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Tordotcom

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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