Characterization elevates this romance over similar offerings in a crowded genre.

LET THE SKY FALL

From the Sky Fall series , Vol. 1

A teenage boy discovers his magical heritage and falls in love with his protector.

Vane Weston has no memories of his life before a tornado killed his parents, only dreams haunted by a beautiful girl. Audra’s been following Vane as his assigned protector from the Gale Force. Although Vane has no memory of it, he is an air elemental, or sylph, just like Audra—in fact, he is the key piece in a war against the stock villain, a power-hungry sylph tyrant who murdered Vane’s parents. Doing her duties, Audra accidentally reveals their location—in much the same way that, years ago, she unintentionally alerted enemy soldiers, called Stormers, to Audra’s parents’ location as they served as guardians for Vane’s family. This prior accident ended in numerous casualties. Vane must awaken to his heritage and powers, mastering the languages of the four winds (one for each direction), if they are to stand a chance when the Stormers come for them. Audra has only days to train him, adding temporal tension. Chapters alternate first-person narration between Vane and Audra, with Audra’s redemptive arc adding meat to the orphan-hero-discovering-his-magical-heritage storyline. While some early exposition is clunky, once the story settles into a character-driven rhythm, the prose smooths out considerably. The twists at the end are refreshing rather than cheap.

Characterization elevates this romance over similar offerings in a crowded genre. (Paranormal romance. 12-17)

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-5041-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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