Book Reviews · Science Fiction · Teen

Review: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead. To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Book Reviews · Fantasy · Teen

Review: Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother's love. The adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, Vanja has long made her own way in the world as the dutiful servant of Princess Gisele. Until a year ago, when her otherworldly mothers demanded payment for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back . . . by stealing Gisele's life. With the help of an enchanted string of pearls, Vanja transformed into her former mistress and took her place, leaving the real Gisele a penniless nobody. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming the nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Until, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to turn into jewels, stone by stone. With a feral guardian half-god, Gisele's sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on her tail, Vanja has just two weeks to pull off her biggest grift yet, or she risks losing more than her freedom - she could lose her life.

Book Reviews · Fiction

Review: The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse. A lighthouse that weathered more than storms. Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation. Coincidence? Or curse? Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left. Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth... But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

Book Reviews · Fantasy · Teen

Review: A Dark & Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell

Derry and her eight siblings live in an isolated house by the lake, separated from the rest of the world by an eerie and menacing forest. Frank, the man who raised them after their families abandoned them, says it’s for their own good. After all, the world isn’t safe for people with magic. And Derry feels safe—most of the time. Until the night her eldest sister disappears. Jane and Derry swore to each other that they’d never go into the forest, not after their last trip ended in blood, but Derry is sure she saw Jane walk into the trees. When another sibling goes missing and Frank’s true colors start to show, feeling safe is no longer an option. Derry will risk anything to protect the family she has left. Even if that means returning to the forest that has started calling to Derry in her missing siblings’ voices. As Derry spends more time amidst the trees, her magic grows more powerful . . . and so does the darkness inside her, the viciousness she wants to pretend doesn’t exist. But saving her siblings from the forest and from Frank might mean embracing the darkness. And that just might be the most dangerous thing of all.

Book Reviews · Fantasy

Review: Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn

Ryia 'the Butcher' Cautella has earned her reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the city - not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name. A deadly secret has kept Ryia in hiding, running from city to city, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster - sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms. But even the most powerful men can be defeated.  One last impossible job is all that stands between Ryia and her freedom - but even the Butcher can't do it alone. She teams up with the Saints, a crew of uniquely skilled miscreants, smugglers and thieves, to carry off a death-defying heist into the most tightly guarded island in the kingdoms - the Guildmaster's stronghold. Unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are nearly as selfish as she is, and they all have plans of their own...

Book Reviews · Fantasy

Review: The Pariah by Anthony Ryan

Born in the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the comradeship of his fellow thieves. Yet an act of betrayal sets him on a new path of blood and vengeance, which leads him to a soldier's life in the king's army.  Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as human and arcane forces gather to oppose Evadine's rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw?

Book Reviews · Fantasy · Science Fiction

Review: The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma

Yassen Knight was the Arohassin’s most notorious assassin until a horrible accident. Now, he’s on the run from both the authorities and his former employer. But when Yassen seeks refuge with an old friend, he’s offered an irresistible deal: defend the heir of Ravence from the Arohassin, and earn his freedom. Elena Ravence prepares to ascend the throne. Trained since birth in statecraft, warfare, and the desert ways, Elena knows she is ready. She only lacks one thing: the ability to hold Fire. With the coronation only weeks away, she must learn quickly or lose her kingdom. Leo Ravence is not yet ready to give up the crown. There’s still too much work to be done, too many battles to be won. But when an ancient prophecy threatens to undo his lifetime of work, Leo wages war on the heavens themselves to protect his legacy.

Book Reviews · Middle Grade

Review: The Raven Heir by Stephanie Burgis

Cordelia, Rosalind and Giles. They have lived in the tower all their lives, protected by their mother's enchantments. Only Cordelia's magic lets her steal moments of freedom - over the wall in the shape of a bird or beneath them as a scurrying mouse. The eldest of the three is heir to the Raven Throne of Corvenne - a land no one can rule for long and hope to live. Only their mother knows which is the true heir, and she will do anything to keep them hidden. But one day, thanks to Cordelia, destiny finds them...

Book Reviews · Fantasy

Review: The Hand of the Sun King by J.T. Greathouse

All my life, I have been torn between two legacies: that of my father, whose roots trace back to the right hand of the Emperor. That of my mother's family, who reject the oppressive Empire and embrace the resistance. I can choose between them - between protecting my family, or protecting my people - or I can search out a better path . . . a magical path, filled with secrets, unbound by empire or resistance, which could shake my world to its very foundation. But my search for freedom will entangle me in a war between the gods themselves . . .

Book Reviews · Fiction · Science Fiction

Review: Notes from the Burning Age by Claire North

a holy man, a keeper of ancient archives. It was his duty to interpret archaic texts, sorting useful knowledge from the heretical ideas of the Burning Age - a time of excess and climate disaster. For in Ven's world, such material must be closely guarded, so that the ills that led to that cataclysmic era can never be repeated. But when the revolutionary Brotherhood approaches Ven, pressuring him to translate stolen writings that threaten everything he once held dear, his life will be turned upside down. Torn between friendship and faith, Ven must decide how far he's willing to go to save this new world, and how much he is willing to lose.