An earnest tale that doesn’t quite land.


A mysterious carnival upends Lilah’s life.

Sixteen-year-old Lilah’s parents and twin brother died in an accident years ago—and after her grandma dies, she ends up in foster care. She finds herself drawn to her new next-door neighbor Joey, also in foster care and a former childhood friend of her brother’s, and wonders where he’s disappearing to at night. At school, Lilah overhears a strange conversation between Joey and arrogant classmate Sebastian, another foster kid, and she decides to investigate. Following them into the woods, she discovers Carnival Nolianna, a place for young people like them who don’t have families. It has a portal that only opens for nine nights per year to outsiders and in a new location each time. If they’re one of the 10 visitors invited to stay on Halloween, then they won’t be able to leave for a year. Joey had desperately wanted to join this community until reconnecting with Lilah and being drawn to her. Lilah’s falling for him in turn and not so sure she trusts Sebastian, who’s intensely interested in her. The story suffers from a lack of coherent worldbuilding. The only fantastical elements are the carnival’s portal and some drugged carnival food which causes selective memory loss. The intriguing execution of the found-family trope is lessened by the superficial romance. Lilah and Sebastian are White; Joey has brown skin, and there is some diversity in background characters.

An earnest tale that doesn’t quite land. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73365-346-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Green Place Books

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit.


Brie risks the deadly land of the Fae to save her sister.

Brie doesn’t trust many people other than Jas, her eternally hopeful sister, and Sebastian, mage apprentice and Brie’s secret love (as if she had time for romance). Brie struggles to meet the payments for the magical contracts binding their lives to Madame Vivias, supplementing her cleaning work by stealing from the rich. While the land of Faerie tempts other girls with word of a castle, a lavish ball, and a fae prince seeking a wife, Brie mistrusts the creatures who capitalize on humanity’s greed. When Jas’ contract is sold to the fae, Brie braves the golden Seelie queen’s court, meets the noble Prince Ronan, and travels on to the Unseelie king’s shadow court. In the process she discovers love, historical secrets, atrocities, and her own hidden strength. While many elements regarding the fae and a love triangle will feel familiar to fans of the genre, and the magic could have been more fleshed out, discussions of power, inequity, trust, and hope expand the worldbuilding in refreshing ways. Similarly, consideration of the balance between truth and secrets, lies and stories, is intriguing as it’s applied to characters, relationships, and historical lore. Despite certain predictable reveals, the plot itself, which starts off slowly, picks up and is pleasantly convoluted with multiple satisfying surprises. Major human characters read as White.

An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-38657-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales.



From the Villains series

How did Cinderella’s stepmother come to be so wicked?

She may have been self-focused, but at least she wasn’t always so cruel. Lady Tremaine, mother of two spoiled daughters, is a lonely widow hoping for a bit of happiness. Unfortunately, when Sir Richard appears at her friend’s house party, she’s swept off her feet and fails to heed the frantic warnings of her dedicated, elderly lady’s maid. Had she ever bothered to read the book of fairy tales her late husband purchased years before, she might have recognized the perils of assuming the role of stepmother. Entranced by Sir Richard, she agrees to a hasty marriage and a move to the Many Kingdoms, where he reverts to his true, domineering nature and she and her daughters become virtual prisoners in his home. Although the Odd Sisters—clever, manipulative witches—try to intervene on her behalf, it seems her fate is already written; she becomes as cruel and demented as the story described. However, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and her sister, Nanny, have plans to rescue Lady Tremaine’s daughters as they develop much-needed, rehabilitative insights into the family’s dynamics. Mostly told from the Lady’s shallow, self-centered perspective, this is an entertaining retelling of the Disney “Cinderella” story from a different viewpoint, with references to the rest of the series woven throughout. Characters follow a White default.

For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-02528-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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