The series still intrigues, but it needs tightening.

MORTAL GODS

From the Goddess War series , Vol. 2

This second installment of the Goddess War series continues the modern-day battles originally fought centuries ago, pitting god against god even as all of the Olympians appear to be dying.

Athena, at the center of the rebel faction, still fights off the owl feathers that sprout in her lungs, constantly threatening to choke her. She remains teamed up with her brother Hermes, who’s wasting away from a too-high metabolism, and mortal characters from Troy now reincarnated as teenagers. Athena sees Cassandra, who can kill gods with her touch, as one of the two major weapons she has against the other divine faction, which primarily comprises Aphrodite, Ares and Hera, thought killed in the first book but found still living. Athena and Odysseus travel to find Achilles, Athena’s second weapon. Athena’s errands and an interesting side trip into Hades add action, but much of the book churns with constant repartee among the characters, their suspicions of one another and their constant training bouts. The prose, both narrative and dialogue, is characteristically witty, but there’s an undeniable feel of second-volume sag to the story. When readers finally reach Olympia for a final battle, the suspense picks up. The underlying concept that finds dying gods at war with one another is still intriguing, but readers may become impatient for more back story.

The series still intrigues, but it needs tightening. (Paranormal suspense. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3444-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come.

THE WICKED KING

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 2

A heady blend of courtly double-crossing, Faerie lore, and toxic attraction swirls together in the sequel to The Cruel Prince (2018).

Five months after engineering a coup, human teen Jude is starting to feel the strain of secretly controlling King Cardan and running his Faerie kingdom. Jude’s self-loathing and anger at the traumatic events of her childhood (her Faerie “dad” killed her parents, and Faerie is not a particularly easy place even for the best-adjusted human) drive her ambition, which is tempered by her desire to make the world she loves and hates a little fairer. Much of the story revolves around plotting (the Queen of the Undersea wants the throne; Jude’s Faerie father wants power; Jude’s twin, Taryn, wants her Faerie betrothed by her side), but the underlying tension—sexual and political—between Jude and Cardan also takes some unexpected twists. Black’s writing is both contemporary and classic; her world is, at this point, intensely well-realized, so that some plot twists seem almost inevitable. Faerie is a strange place where immortal, multihued, multiformed denizens can’t lie but can twist everything; Jude—who can lie—is an outlier, and her first-person, present-tense narration reveals more than she would choose. With curly dark brown hair, Jude and Taryn are never identified by race in human terms.

A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come. (map) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-31035-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Immersive and engaging, despite some flaws, and destined to capture imaginations.

CARAVAL

From the Caraval series , Vol. 1

Magic, mystery, and love intertwine and invite in this newest take on the “enchanted circus” trope.

Sisters raised by their abusive father, a governor of a colonial backwater in a world vaguely reminiscent of the late 18th century, Scarlett and Donatella each long for something more. Scarlett, olive-skinned, dark of hair and attitude, longs for Caraval, the fabled, magical circus helmed by the possibly evil Master Legend Santos, while blonde, sunny Tella finds comfort in drink and the embraces of various men. A slightly awkward start, with inconsistencies of attitude and setting, rapidly smooths out when they, along with handsome “golden-brown” sailor Julian, flee to Caraval on the eve of Scarlett’s arranged marriage. Tella disappears, and Scarlett must navigate a nighttime world of magic to find her. Caraval delights the senses: beautiful and scary, described in luscious prose, this is a show readers will wish they could enter. Dresses can be purchased for secrets or days of life; clocks can become doors; bridges move: this is an inventive and original circus, laced with an edge of horror. A double love story, one sensual romance and the other sisterly loyalty, anchors the plot, but the real star here is Caraval and its secrets.

Immersive and engaging, despite some flaws, and destined to capture imaginations. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-09525-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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