While Arnold has written a compelling flipped fairy tale and commentary on misogyny, she’s missed the mark for her intended...

DAMSEL

Arnold (Bat and the Waiting Game, 2018, etc.) blends an abusive romance-novel relationship and intense feminist and patriarchal imagery with the classic storyline of a prince saving a damsel from the lair of a dragon.

In a gray, medieval world, Prince Emory of Harding makes his way toward a dragon’s lair to rescue a damsel and make her his bride, in the process bringing light to the land and glory upon himself. The damsel cannot recall who she is, and so Emory names her Ama. They return to Harding, where Prince Emory is crowned king, and his mother announces they will be wed in a few months’ time, and Ama will give birth to his heir. Ama must learn how to be a queen and is reminded repeatedly that Emory’s desires are what matters—she is never allowed to forget that he “saved” her. When she does not comply with his wishes, she is brutally and sadistically punished, sexually, psychologically, and physically. What if, instead of being the hero’s beloved, you are your abuser’s captive? The symbolism and imagery, as well as the meaning of the sexual violence that is perpetrated upon Ama, may go over the heads of less sophisticated readers. All characters are white.

While Arnold has written a compelling flipped fairy tale and commentary on misogyny, she’s missed the mark for her intended audience. (Fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-274232-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Will cast a spell on romance fans.

SERPENT & DOVE

From the Serpent & Dove series , Vol. 1

A stealth witch and a devout witch hunter are forced to marry.

In this French-flavored fantasy world, witches are hunted down by the Church’s Chasseurs and burned at the stake; they retaliate against this genocidal crusade through vicious terrorist attacks. Thief Louise le Blanc wants none of that—she’s left her witch life behind. But Lou ends up on Chasseur captain Reid Diggory’s radar when a heist goes bad; his attempt to catch her lands them in a situation so compromising that the archbishop suggests marriage to save face. Lou’s initial priority is self-protection—wanting to avoid both fallout from the heist and a dangerous figure from her past—and she’s fine with using Reid. The slow-burn, opposites-attract romance between crass, irreverent Lou and prim and proper Reid gets very hot and sexy once it ignites. Lou sees firsthand the damages some witches do to innocents, has her presumptions about individual Chasseurs challenged, and also sees up close the horrors Chasseurs perpetrate. Despite occasional pacing hiccups and an easily guessed twist, the secondary characters will charm readers, and the story picks up when Lou’s past dangerously catches up to her, revealing the true stakes. Though at heart a romance, rich second-tier characters round out the shades-of-gray, morality-and-empathy themes. Witches, Chasseurs, and some secondary characters come in all colors; the leads appear white. The ending screams sequel.

Will cast a spell on romance fans. (Fantasy. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-287802-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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