Pleasantly formulaic light fantasy with an appealingly strong female lead.

THE QUEEN'S ASSASSIN

From the Queen's Secret series , Vol. 1

A young woman, raised in obscurity and trained in magic, rescues a handsome boy and sets off to save her kingdom in this duology opener.

In a kingdom where the only magical knowledge to escape centuries of tyrannical rule belongs to women, Shadow wants to go on adventures. She’s connected to both the palace and the Guild, a group of mostly female magic-wielding assassins and adventurers. Unfortunately, her mother has just recalled her to court, where she’ll be expected to wear fancy gowns and jewels and maybe be married off. Rebellious Shadow runs off to rescue Caledon Holt, the Queen’s Assassin, who is bound to the Queen until he finds the hidden magic scrolls. Chapters alternate between Cal’s and Shadow’s perspectives as the pair reluctantly partner up to infiltrate a neighboring kingdom and root out the conspiracy trying to destroy Renovia. From perpetual frustration to all-in love, this is more about the romance than the world, although the world—with strong women, marriage equality, and characters of varying skin tones—certainly has its strengths, lightly realized though it is. This is a classic plucky heroine fantasy in the vein of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore, with some modern tweaks.

Pleasantly formulaic light fantasy with an appealingly strong female lead. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51591-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A dazzling debut.

BEASTS OF PREY

Opposites come together hoping to capture a menacing creature, only to find a greater purpose.

Ekon Okojo, studious and cautious, aspires to continue his family’s legacy as a Son of the Six, one of the city of Lkossa’s class of anointed warriors. Passionate and impulsive Koffi, who dreams of being free, is an indentured beastkeeper of the Night Zoo—a collection of exotic species owned by the greedy Baaz Mtombé. In the span of a single night, their paths cross and their destinies are forever altered: Ekon is cast out of the warrior class, and Koffi faces a lifetime of servitude. The pair form a tenuous partnership and venture into the Greater Jungle to hunt the Shetani, a powerful, vicious monster, hoping this will solve both their problems. As they are both headstrong and mistrustful, they get off to a rough start, but they become closer with each brush with death. Their quest for vengeance on the Shetani, which is wreaking havoc on Lkossa, turns into something more when they make an unanticipated discovery. Saving their village—and humanity—comes down to Ekon’s warrior instinct and Koffi’s ability to control the magic her people call the splendor. This pan-African story, rife with betrayal and narrated through poetic language that evokes vivid imagery, will ensnare readers, keeping them engaged with its energetic pace. The beautiful blend of mythology, romance, and action ends with a hint at more to come. All characters are Black.

A dazzling debut. (maps, author’s note) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-40568-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Vivid, chilling, and important.

NONE SHALL SLEEP

Two 18-year-olds with traumatic pasts become entangled in a high-stakes manhunt for a serial killer targeting teenagers.

Emma Lewis isn’t your average psychology undergrad (and not just because she has a buzz cut). Two and a half years ago, she escaped a serial killer’s clutches and then helped the authorities apprehend him. Now a student at Ohio State, she’s been recruited for her unique qualifications by an agent in the FBI’s Behavioral Science department to spend the summer interviewing juvenile offenders. Alongside trainee Travis Bell, whose late father was killed while apprehending one of their subjects, Emma reluctantly ventures into the minds of teenage killers—and must confront her own past when one of the subjects offers unexpected insight into the motives of a new killer known as the Butcher. Set in the early 1980s, narrated in present tense, and told through Emma’s perspective as well as others’ (including the Butcher’s), the tightly plotted story moves inexorably forward with shocking twists alongside clear, applicable descriptions of the cognitive behavioral strategies Emma uses to navigate her PTSD. The narrative is critical of law enforcement work, emphasizing its psychological toll, and the '80s cultural references are handled with a light touch. Emma is white while Travis is cued as biracial (Mexican American and white); although most secondary characters appear white, two key figures are people of color.

Vivid, chilling, and important. (author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49783-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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