Happily, the many ardent fans waiting for this volume probably won’t mind its snags, they’ll just delight in the feels.

OUR DARK DUET

From the Monsters of Verity series , Vol. 2

In a world where monstrous acts beget actual monsters, what is humanity?

Picking up six months after This Savage Song (2016), this duology conclusion opens with Kate (human, white, deaf in one ear) and August (not human, fair-skinned) separated; he’s in quarantined, monster-ridden supercity Verity, embracing his purpose, which is to reap those who have committed violence. Meanwhile, Kate has escaped to Prosperity, where she’s teamed up with what feels an awful lot like the Scooby Gang of Buffy fame to fight more monsters. The story starts slowly but picks up when Kate returns to Verity on the heels of a monster that breeds violence; the Malchai and Corsai just kill people, and the Sunai reap souls, but the Chaos Eater causes people to turn on one another in acts of unrelenting carnage. Kate joins August and the Flynn Task Force to fight the Chaos Eater and the lead Malchai, and her presence helps August find himself again. The breakneck pacing of the climactic latter half eventually resolves into a poignant ending. Too many peripheral characters—including a nongendered Sunai whose representation is exciting but problematic—and too much time with figurative mustache- (and literal dead-body–) twirling villains detract from what works, although Schwab’s style is on point, as always.

Happily, the many ardent fans waiting for this volume probably won’t mind its snags, they’ll just delight in the feels. (Fantasy/horror. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-238088-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come.

THE WICKED KING

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 2

A heady blend of courtly double-crossing, Faerie lore, and toxic attraction swirls together in the sequel to The Cruel Prince (2018).

Five months after engineering a coup, human teen Jude is starting to feel the strain of secretly controlling King Cardan and running his Faerie kingdom. Jude’s self-loathing and anger at the traumatic events of her childhood (her Faerie “dad” killed her parents, and Faerie is not a particularly easy place even for the best-adjusted human) drive her ambition, which is tempered by her desire to make the world she loves and hates a little fairer. Much of the story revolves around plotting (the Queen of the Undersea wants the throne; Jude’s Faerie father wants power; Jude’s twin, Taryn, wants her Faerie betrothed by her side), but the underlying tension—sexual and political—between Jude and Cardan also takes some unexpected twists. Black’s writing is both contemporary and classic; her world is, at this point, intensely well-realized, so that some plot twists seem almost inevitable. Faerie is a strange place where immortal, multihued, multiformed denizens can’t lie but can twist everything; Jude—who can lie—is an outlier, and her first-person, present-tense narration reveals more than she would choose. With curly dark brown hair, Jude and Taryn are never identified by race in human terms.

A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come. (map) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-31035-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work.

14 WAYS TO DIE

A teen sleuth tries livestreaming to catch a murderer.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Simmons lost her mother a decade ago, the first victim of the Magpie Man, a serial killer now on victim No. 13, who has struck in locations around the U.K. Her father’s life is still in shambles and her former friends are long gone, but Jessica’s decided to publicize her tragedy. One of five contestants on YouTube’s “The Eye”—an unscripted, livestreamed reality show—Jessica asks her viewers to help identify the serial killer. But inviting the world into her home and school brings unwanted attention, perhaps even from the Magpie Man, whose body count keeps climbing: Sleuthing-related drama and peril ensue. Jessica’s friends and family are economically rendered yet believable, and Ralph renders grief beautifully and devastatingly, as something that evolves but doesn’t end. As in the story, the bulk of the action occurs when the cameras aren’t rolling, and eventually, the reality show premise and its minimally developed contestants are more a distraction and transparent deus ex machina than an integral part of Jessica’s journey. More intriguing—and with real-life precedents—is the possibility of crowdsourcing a murder investigation. Although the fast-paced finale can’t quite overcome the slow start and overlong middle, the tale reaches a dramatic, satisfactory conclusion. Characters follow a White default.

An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work. (resources, author interview) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-186-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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