A dystopian fantasy with all the expected elements of the genre.

THE THOUSAND STEPS

From the Fiery Spiral series , Vol. 1

A story of love and sacrifice mixed with politics and magic in an alternate Cape Town.

Sixteen-year-old orphan Ebba has only known life in an underground bunker where she and other young people work 12 hours a day. This is life after the Calamity that caused the deaths of all except those in the bunker. Or so Ebba believes. One fateful day she not only escapes death, but is brought aboveground to Table Island, the world she thought was uninhabitable. Ebba learns she is the wealthiest of the Citizens—those chosen by the god Prospiroh, spared from misfortune and blessed with abundance. A caretaker on the vast farm she now owns tells her of her lineage as a descendant of the goddess Theia and her destiny: to save the world from a second Calamity. Ebba struggles to come to terms with her new reality. Thrust from slavery into luxury, she barely has time to adjust before her world is rocked even more and she has to make hard decisions and be braver than she thinks she can be, even with the help of her closest friends, ancestors, and some surprising allies. Mixing mythology with real historical atrocities like apartheid, this is a solid tale featuring diverse characters who reflect the real-world communities of South Africa; race and ethnicity are, however, treated as incidental to the narrative.

A dystopian fantasy with all the expected elements of the genre. (map) (Fantasy. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946395-24-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Catalyst Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2019

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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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