Monty Python teams up with Maxwell Smart for a wrestling match with Tolkien—splendid.

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THE ASSASSINATION OF BRANGWAIN SPURGE

Spy thrills meet fantasy rivalries as an elitist elf and a bookish goblin strike up a cross-cultural kerfuffle in Anderson and Yelchin’s collaborative meditation on prejudice.

Scholar Brangwain Spurge of the Realm of Elfland is sent to deliver a historically significant gift to the ruler of the neighboring goblins—and to make some covert observations. Little does he know that his spy mission, related in multipage wordless sequences of black-and-white illustrations, is in fact an assassination. Meanwhile, in an interleaved third-person prose narrative, Werfel, a goblin archivist, is thrilled to meet and host the elf historian, sure that they will find fertile common ground to begin easing the 1,000-year-old tension between their two kingdoms. Dismayed, however, by Spurge’s lack of appreciation and downright snobbishness, Werfel is horrified to find his guest has betrayed his hospitality and caught the attention of the goblin secret police as their two kingdoms head, once again, toward conflict. Occasional letters from Elfland’s spymaster assist the two primary narratives. The book makes no secret about its own position even as it cheerfully asks readers to think critically about ideologies and their agendas and the manufactured barriers of misinformation and misunderstanding. Together, Anderson and Yelchin craft something that feels impossible, a successfully unorthodox epistolary, pictorial, and prose narrative that interrogates the cultural ramifications of unchallenged viewpoints and the government violence they abet even as it recounts the comedic blunderings of a spy mission gone wrong.

Monty Python teams up with Maxwell Smart for a wrestling match with Tolkien—splendid. (Fantasy. 10-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9822-5

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales.

COLD HEARTED

A TALE OF THE WICKED STEPMOTHER

From the Villains series

How did Cinderella’s stepmother come to be so wicked?

She may have been self-focused, but at least she wasn’t always so cruel. Lady Tremaine, mother of two spoiled daughters, is a lonely widow hoping for a bit of happiness. Unfortunately, when Sir Richard appears at her friend’s house party, she’s swept off her feet and fails to heed the frantic warnings of her dedicated, elderly lady’s maid. Had she ever bothered to read the book of fairy tales her late husband purchased years before, she might have recognized the perils of assuming the role of stepmother. Entranced by Sir Richard, she agrees to a hasty marriage and a move to the Many Kingdoms, where he reverts to his true, domineering nature and she and her daughters become virtual prisoners in his home. Although the Odd Sisters—clever, manipulative witches—try to intervene on her behalf, it seems her fate is already written; she becomes as cruel and demented as the story described. However, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and her sister, Nanny, have plans to rescue Lady Tremaine’s daughters as they develop much-needed, rehabilitative insights into the family’s dynamics. Mostly told from the Lady’s shallow, self-centered perspective, this is an entertaining retelling of the Disney “Cinderella” story from a different viewpoint, with references to the rest of the series woven throughout. Characters follow a White default.

For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-02528-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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