The setting is well-captured, but it’s slow going in this sci-fi adventure.

REBEL SEOUL

In a militaristic future Korea, a boy and girl meet.

It is 2199, and Korea, China, and Japan no longer exist as separate countries but as members of the Neo Council (conveyed to readers in infodumps). Five decades of war have yielded many innovations, such as the God Machines (riffing on the tradition of Japanese mecha movies and Pacific Rim). Preparing to take his military placement exam before graduation from an elite academy, Jaewon is isolated: his father is dead, his mother abandoned him, and his former best friend has turned his back on Jaewon to gain power in one of the Old Seoul gangs. Jaewon’s military posting is to the Tower, the kilometer-tall building in Neo Seoul that serves as headquarters, where he is assigned to supervise Tera, a girl whose strength has been enhanced with drugs in order to pilot a new kind of God Machine. With war still raging and rebel nationalists seeking to make Korea an independent nation again, will two young people be able to find love in this plot-heavy story? While Jaewon is an effective character, much of the supporting cast is relatively flat and the dialogue occasionally stilted, which jars against the mostly colloquial flow.

The setting is well-captured, but it’s slow going in this sci-fi adventure. (glossary) (Science fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62014-299-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tu Books

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

I AM NOT STARFIRE

Sixteen-year-old Mandy considers herself the anti-Starfire: Unlike her scantily clad superhero mother, she doesn’t have superpowers, can’t fly, and doesn’t even own a bathing suit.

Mandy dyes her hair and dresses in all black to further call out how different they are. Mandy’s best friend, Lincoln, whose parents were born in Vietnam, insightfully summarizes this rift as being down to an intergenerational divide that occurs whether parents and children come from different countries or different planets. Mandy tries to figure out what kind of future she wants for herself as she struggles with teenage insecurities and bullying, her relationship with her mom, and her budding friendship (or is it something more?) with her new class project partner, Claire. Yoshitani’s vibrant and colorful stylized illustrations beautifully meld the various iterations of Starfire and the Titans with the live-action versions of those characters. Together with Tamaki’s punchy writing, this coming-of-age story of identity, family, friendship, and saving the world is skillfully brought to life in a quick but nuanced read. These layers are most strongly displayed as the story draws parallels between cultural differences between the generations as evidenced in how the characters address bullying, body positivity, fatphobia, fetishization and sexualization, and feminism. This title addresses many important concepts briefly, but well, with great pacing, bold art, and concise and snappy dialogue. The cast is broadly diverse in both primary and secondary characters.

Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. (Graphic fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-126-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DC Comics

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

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It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy.

THE TEMPLE OF DOUBT

From the Temple of Doubt series , Vol. 1

A fantasy series opener pits adolescent angst against an all-powerful religion.

Living in Port Sapphire, on the island of New Meridian in the world of Kuldor, almost-16-year-old Hadara chafes under the tenets of a religion headed by the god Nihil that teaches that magic is superior to anything in nature. Since Hadara and her mother continue the passed-down-in-the-female-line family business of concocting healing potions from plants, the two are regarded with suspicion even as their services are sought out by townspeople. When an object falls from the sky into the marsh, Azwans (mages of Nihil) and their oversized Feroxi guards arrive to investigate, complicating things for Hadara and her family, not least because Hadara begins to have feelings for one of the guards. Although Hadara is a delightfully pert narrator, the story’s foremost tension—her subversive doubt of Nihil’s tenets—fails to reach its full potential because the religious concepts are not convincingly clear enough to weave themselves inextricably into the story. Levy shines brightest in her potent descriptions of settings and her imaginative scenes. Continuity, however, is a recurring problem. Among other lapses, the first two chapters seem to be two separate beginnings.

It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63220-427-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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