CURSES

A “beastly girl” meets a handsome boy in a tongue-in-cheek fairy-tale universe vaguely reminiscent of Victorian England.

Not a typical member of the fairyborn aristocracy, Merit has horns, fur, and a tail. Unless she finds a love match or marries a suitor her mother chooses before her next birthday, she will keep them forever. Compared to some in her curse support group, though, she’s not so unfortunate; a tincture of a certain herb from her family’s lands can restore her normal form for a few hours. As penance for his mother’s theft of the herb, Tevin, a magically charming con boy, promises to help Merit secure a worthy partner. Merit and Tevin’s sweet romance grows naturally from their friendship, but supporting characters provide the most entertainment—especially Tevin’s sharpshooting lesbian cousin, Val. In fact, Merit and Tevin match so easily that it’s hard to feel a lot of tension or suspense. Plus, their stalwart crew of friends always seems more than capable of handling the garden-variety villain, an ambitious queen. Sassy chapter titles and the odd cheeky aside infuse the traditional setting with some humor. Refreshingly, marriage equality seems to be the law of the land, and one culture in this world does not believe in binary genders. Most characters are cued as White; there is some diversity of skin tone in the cast.

Earnest and amusing. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984815-59-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

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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Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries.

THE BETRAYED

Lady Hollis flees her country after her new husband is killed.

In The Betrothed (2020), Hollis fell in love with Silas, the son of an Isolten family who sought asylum from their cruel king, and chose him over her intended match, King Jameson. Since Silas, his father, his brothers, and her parents have been killed, she decides to travel to Isolte with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Formerly primarily interested in dresses, dancing, and romance, Hollis now proves her mettle. Etan, Silas’ cousin, arrives to escort the family, and he clashes with Hollis from the moment they meet. The society they live in, modeled after medieval Europe, with castles, tournaments, kings, queens, and nobles, generally follows traditional gender roles, but Hollis sometimes breaks through the accepted boundaries. When Etan wants to lead a revolt against his own King Quinten, who is just one of the novel’s major betrayers, Hollis uses her wits to get the evidence needed to convince others that he is guilty of crimes against his own people. She bravely returns to Coroa to confront King Jameson when she finds out that he, too, has carried out unspeakable crimes. Hollis and Etan’s verbal wars are fun, predictably leading to love, but the political intrigue sometimes drags the novel down. Characters default to White.

Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-229166-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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