A fantasy for thoughtful readers.

THE HEARTWOOD CROWN

From the Sunlit Lands series , Vol. 2

A dying girl, a failing world.

In this sequel to The Crescent Stone (2018), Madeline has returned to Earth still sick after rejecting the Elenil magic that allowed her to breathe freely at the cost of another. However, the crumbling magic system and unfolding secrets draw her back to the Sunlit Lands. Though Madeline is key, the story focuses on Shula Bishara, a Syrian refugee and ex-Elenil soldier; Jason Wu, the boy who pledged never to lie; and Darius Walker, Madeline’s ex and a Black Skull. The main plot points are blatantly laid out—no need to guess who will die at the end—but it is the journey and the choices made along the way that make this story shine. Despite prophecies, fire powers, a magical sword, and the silliness of a kitten-sized rhinoceros, these are sympathetic teens who struggle to make hard decisions in lives complicated by revenge, guilt, and sacrifice. More so than in the previous book, this volume focuses on parallels with current race relations and considers modern history and literature from the viewpoint of the disenfranchised and oppressed. Madeline is white, and there is ethnic diversity in the rest of the cast. Navigating this world and its characters may be daunting for those seeking a quick read, but others will find much to delve into and unpack.

A fantasy for thoughtful readers. (notes, cast of characters, appendix, lexicon, legends, poem, excerpts, stories) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4964-3175-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Wander

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

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P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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

THESE HOLLOW VOWS

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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