Amped-up action scenes and a thoughtful look at people’s breaking points make this sequel a stronger read.

SPELL STARTER

From the Caster series , Vol. 2

Even in a world with magic, quick fixes come with a cost.

In this sequel to Caster (2019), Aza Wu is again thrust into dangerous tournaments. These are backed not by the Guild but by the ambitious Saint Willow, the Lotusland gang leader. This time, however, Aza does not revel in the freedom of full magic casting; rather, she fears her uncertain control over her new, ill-gotten power and the risk of endangering herself, other fighters, and the world around her. Reluctantly working as Saint Willow’s squeezer and forced to compete nightly in these deadly games, Aza is desperate to find a way out of this predicament that will also keep her parents safe and the family business intact. Though it continues to be strong in action, this second offering spends more time exploring familial obligation, moral choices, and compromise as well as human-made (or magic-made) ecological disasters. Aza’s parents, still ignorant of their daughter’s real job, play a greater role here and are supportive of her, from her work to being interested in whatever sexuality or relationship she may lean toward. There is some diversity in characters, but the book mostly highlights Chinese culture, from Aza’s family’s tea business to the strategic and thoughtful use of romanized Cantonese phrases scattered throughout.

Amped-up action scenes and a thoughtful look at people’s breaking points make this sequel a stronger read. (Dystopian fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-58951-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes.

SIX CRIMSON CRANES

From the Six Crimson Cranes series , Vol. 1

Girl meets magic. Hijinks ensue.

Shiori’anma, Princess of Kiata and eldest daughter of Emperor Hanariho, is the intrepid protagonist in this folktale retelling. About to turn 17 and be married off to a third-rank barbarian lord, Shiori desperately looks for ways out of the engagement. Her emerging talents in forbidden magic and a run-in with a young shape-shifting dragon help to pass the time before she is doomed to relocate to the cold North. Things take an even worse turn, however, when she uncovers her stepmother’s secrets. As a consequence, her six brothers are cursed into assuming the form of cranes by day. Shiori is whisked away and coerced into silence, for every word that escapes her lips will mean the death of one of her brothers. She must learn to survive on her own and use her wits and hard-won experience to save both her family and country. Readers here revisit the East Asian–inspired world established in Lim’s The Blood of Stars duology. Despite a few hiccups in the logic of the magic, the author cleverly maintains the basic structure of this well-known European folktale type while weaving in rich elements of Asian mythology, including dragon pearls and the goddess of the moon. The exploration of complicated family dynamics is a particular strength, especially the challenging of the evil stepmother cliché.

Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30091-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes.

FIREBORNE

From the Aurelian Cycle series , Vol. 1

What happens to the world after the dust from a revolution has settled?

Friends Annie and Lee were children from very different circles when Atreus killed Lee’s father, dragonlord Leon Stormscourge, ending the uprising on the bloodiest day in Callipolis’ history. For too long the dragonriders held all the power while their people starved and lived in fear. Nine years later, a new generation of dragonriders is emerging, children selected and trained on merit, not bloodlines. Their dragons are finally mature enough for them to compete for Firstrider, a position of power that can give Lee back a small part of what his family lost. However, not only is Lee competing against Annie, but rumors are circulating that some of the royal family have survived and have dragons of their own. Everyone will have to make a choice: Restore the old regime, support the First Protector and the new caste system he created, or look for a new way, no matter what the cost. From the beginning, this book pulls readers in with political intrigue and action. What keeps them invested, however, are the complex relationships between many cast members. Choices are complex, and the consequences for all could be deadly. The world is well fleshed out and believable. Annie and Lee are light skinned; secondary characters are diverse, and race is a nonissue in this world.

Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes. (author’s note) (Fantasy.14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51821-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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