Colleen Mondor Reviews The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Mirror Season, Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel & Friends 978-1-250-62412-3 $18.99, 320pp, hc) March 2021.

Content warning: This title deals graphically with the emotional and psychological fallout from sexual assault.

As Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season opens, Graciela Cristales (“Ciela”) is dropping off a boy she does not know at the emergency room in her hometown of Astoria OR. It quickly becomes clear that the two of them were at ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (Simon Pulse 978-1-534-44160-6, $18.99, 512pp, hc) September 2020.

In Legendborn, an epic blend of Arthurian legend and Southern Black magical tradition, author Tracy Deonn incorporates the endless allure of collegiate secret societies with a lighter version of Hunger Games-esque battles (not to the death), and a cast of demons to give readers a big adventure that doesn’t stop until the final pages. (And even then ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Ravens by Kass Morgan & Danielle Paige

The Ravens, Kass Morgan & Danielle Paige (HMH Books 978-0-358-09823-2, $18.99, 400pp, hc) November 2020.

Kass Morgan & Danielle Page’s novel The Ra­vens combines several current YA trends. The primary setting is a college sorority comprised of witches who are mostly preoccupied with furthering their own popularity. They live in a gorgeous historic house, attend a Georgia col­lege that has an appropriately creepy cemetery nearby, and spend a lot ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses, Kristen O’Neal (Quirk 978-1-68369-234-8, $18.99, 384pp, hc). April 2021.

A ton of books have been published with were­wolf characters, but debut author Kristen O’Neal has written one that stands out for all that it lacks: no romance, no murder, no vampires, and no climactic battle between good and evil. Lycan­thropy and Other Chronic Illnesses takes read­ers into the world of a chronically ill young ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Kind of a Big Deal by Shannon Hale

Kind of a Big Deal, Shannon Hale (Roaring Brook 978-1-250-20623-7, $18.99, 389pp, hc) August 2020.

When Shannon Hale’s thoughtful Kind of a Big Deal opens, readers quickly discover that protagonist Josie Pie (her stage name), is living the unenviable reality of having peaked in high school. After flaming out in an ill-thought Broadway attempt, she is now the nanny for a sweet little girl whose dy­namic mother recently relocated ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller

Don’t Tell a Soul, Kirsten Miller (Delacorte 978-0-525-58120-8, $20.99, 384pp, hc) January 2021.

Kirsten Miller’s outstanding thriller Don’t Tell a Soul is not only a first-rate mystery, it also man­ages to address just what it is about certain ghost stories, specifically those involving dead girls, which are so culturally pervasive. The novel’s protagonist has a special affinity for these girls and how their personal histories and true motiva­tions are ...Read More

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Year End Review by Colleen Mondor

While reading for Locus this year, I kept an unof­ficial list of notes about things I wanted to mention in my end-of-the-year es­say. The biggest word on the list is “WITCHES,” which cropped up in more than one memorable title to cross my desk. From the field hockey team that takes a solemn oath within an Emilio Este­vez notebook in Quan Bar­ry’s We Ride Upon Sticks to the mill workers ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg

Spellbreaker, Charlie N. Holmberg (47North 978-1-54202009-1, $14.95, 322pp, tp) November 2020.

The primary protagonist of Charlie N. Holmberg’s latest novel, Spellbreaker, has had a difficult life. Elsie Camden was mysteriously abandoned as a young child and subsequently delivered to a workhouse. She later became a servant for a truly odious master and now, although she is thankful to be a valued assistant for a stonemason and artist, she ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

The Midnight Bargain, C.L. Polk (Erewhon Books 978-1-64566-007-1, $25.95, 384pp, hc) October 2020.

In C.L. Polk’s sparkling third novel, The Mid­night Bargain, Beatrice Clayborn is a young woman with a terrible problem. As a debutante participating in “Bargaining Season,” she must capture the attention of an appropriately wealthy and suitable man who will propose marriage and thus save her family from an ever-increasing threat of poverty and social ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

Early Departures, Justin A. Reynolds (Kath­erine Tegen 978-0-06-274840-9, $17.99, 480pp, hc) September 2020.

It is not a spoiler to share that Justin A. Reynolds’s latest, Early Departures, is about what happens when someone you care about dies suddenly and then, through the miracle of technology, is reanimated for a few weeks so everyone can say a proper goodbye. This is not a zombie novel nor, surprisingly, much of ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Silence of the Wilting Skin by Tlotlo Tsamaase

The Silence of the Wilting Skin, Tlotlo Tsamaase (Pink Narcissus Press 978-1-939056-17-7, $12.00, 97pp, tp) May 2020.

The opening line of Motswana author Tlotlo Tsamaase’s searing novella hits readers hard and fast: “My Girlfriend was born on the train a week after her mother died,” she writes. From there the short chapters fly by as the unnamed narrator documents the train’s monthly arrival in her bisected city, carrying the ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, Garth Nix (Katherine Tegen Books 978-0-06-268325-0, $19.99, 416pp, hc) September 2020.

In a version of 1983 London that is just a bit not-like the actual 1983 London, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father. Her mother, whose memories of Susan’s conception are fond but hazy, can provide only the vaguest of clues as to his identity, thus prompting her summertime quest. Susan’s plan to ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune

The Extraordinaries, TJ Klune (Tor Teen, 978-1-250-20365-6, $18.99, 399pp, hc) May 2020.

TJ Klune follows up The House in the Cerulean Sea with another compelling human drama that is set in a world like our own, but with a few unexpected fantasy elements. In Cerulean Sea it was people with magical abili­ties; this time around, in The Extraordinaries, it’s somewhat unconventional superheroes. Teen Nick Bell lives with his ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Factory Witches of Lowell by C.S. Malerich

The Factory Witches of Lowell, C.S. Malerich (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250756565, $14.99, 128pp, tp) November 2020.

In the early 19th century, Lowell MA was known for its thriving textile mill industry. Unlike neighboring Rhode Island, the Lowell system developed a workforce made primarily of young women, all of whom worked 80 hours a week, lived in company-owned dormitories, and, be­cause of their gender, earned a lower salary than men. Historically, ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera

Never Look Back, Lilliam Rivera (Blooms­bury 978-1-5476-0373-2, $18.99, 310pp, hc) September 2020.

In this modern retelling of the Orpheus and Eu­rydice myth, “Pheus” is a guitar playing lothario planning a fun-filled summer in the Bronx, and “Eury” is a Puerto Rican refugee of Hurricane Maria sent to recuperate with family. They come together at a typical teen beach party where Pheus tries his usual schtick and Eury exhibits no ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews White Fox by Sara Faring

White Fox, Sara Faring (Imprint 9781250304520, $18.99, 432pp, hc) September 2020.

Sara Faring’s last novel, The Tenth Girl, blended the gothic setting of an isolated and haunted castle-like school with a stunning sci­ence fiction twist that elevated the plot to a whole new level. Her latest, White Fox, could not be more different in setting and characters, and yet it also provides an excellent twisty narrative and ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

The Silvered Serpents, Roshani Chokshi (Wednesday Books 978-1-250-14457-7, $18.99, 464pp, hc) September 2020.

The Silvered Serpents is the second book in Roshani Chokshi’s Gilded Wolves series. To get the obvious out of the way, you must read the first book, The Gilded Wolves, before you read the sequel. Not only will you be almost hopelessly lost otherwise, you will also find the novel’s emotional heft greatly diminished. Just ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen

The Faithless Hawk, Margaret Owen (Henry Holt 978-1-250-19194-6, $18.99, 400pp, hc) August 2020.

In her sequel to The Merciful Crow, Margaret Owen returns to the kingdom of Sabor and the new chaos created by the sudden death/murder of their cruel but powerful king. The Faithless Hawk includes all of the characters from the first book but increases the action and adds some major royal intrigue as the battle ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

We Ride Upon Sticks, Quan Barry (Pantheon Books 978-1-5247-4809-8, $26.95, 360pp, hc) March 2020.

Prior to Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks, I had never read a novel about a field hockey team. In retrospect, it is a perfectly tailored sport for a story about witchcraft – teenage girls (plus one boy) who really, really want to win while running around on a field wielding sticks at their ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Brown Girl Ghosted by Mintie Das

Brown Girl Ghosted, Mintie Das (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 978-0358128892, $17.99, 289pp, hc) March 2020.

As Brown Girl Ghosted opens 16-year-old Violet Choudhury is dealing with some very typical high school drama. An accepted member of the POMs, she is fitting into her Midwestern town in the most traditional of teenage ways: anchoring the cheer pyramid, at­tending the occasional party, getting into just the right amount of trouble, and determinedly ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Burn by Patrick Ness

Burn, Patrick Ness (Harper Teen 978-0-06-286951-7, $18.99, 384pp, hc) June 2020.

The first half of Patrick Hess’s thrilling alt-history, Burn, is set in a small rural Washington State town in 1957. Sarah Dewhurst and her father are barely holding their farm together, still mourning the recent death of Sarah’s mother and struggling to find a way to be a family without her. Gareth Dewhurst cannot af­ford the men ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Deeplight, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books 978-1-509-83695-6, £12.99, 448pp, hc) October 2019. (Abrams 978-1-419-74320-7, $19.99, 432pp, hc) April 2020.

Author Frances Hardinge’s latest fantasy, Deeplight, takes elements of Charles Dickens and Jules Verne and blends them into a world where the old and mysterious gods are now just carcasses in the depths of the sea, and a young teen must rely on his wits to survive. The adventures ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Loop by Ben Oliver

The Loop, Ben Oliver (Chicken House 978-1-338-58930-6, $18.99, 369pp, hc) April 2020.

In Ben Oliver’s The Loop, Luka has been in the prison known as The Loop for 736 days. Every day he wakes up in his solitary cell; works out; eats forgettable food; talks to the computer that runs the prison; spends one hour outside where he cannot see anyone but at least can speak to his ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Ghost Wood Song, Erica Waters (Harper Teen 978-0-06-289422-9, $17.99, 360pp, hc) July 2020.

While urban fantasy is a thriving fantasy sub­genre, its rural counterpart has been far less explored. Erica Waters goes all in with Ghost Wood Song, a contemporary title not only set in a small, woodsy Florida town, but also cen­tered around bluegrass music. Her protagonist is a fiddle-playing teen determined to uncover family secrets, who ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews A Wicked Magic by Sasha Laurens

A Wicked Magic, Sasha Laurens (Razorbill 978-0-593-11725-5, $17.99, 368pp hc) July 2020.

The problems for best friends Dan and Liss began when they found an old book in the lo­cal giveaway box in their small North Coast California town. With almost all of its pages blank, they couldn’t resist the appeal of what was printed: “A Spell for the Making of Naive Witches”. They followed the directions and something ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella Is Dead, Kalynn Bayron (Blooms­bury 978-1-5476-0387-9, $18.99, 385pp, hc) July 2020.

This. Is It.

Finally.

The Cinderella story we have all been pining for has arrived. This is the story of what happened not just the day after “happily ever after.” but decades and centuries after. This is the story of what happened all those years later in the kingdom whose foundational truth was the story of a ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley

If These Wings Could Fly, Kyrie McCauley (Katherine Tegen Books 978-0-06-288502-9, $17.99, 400pp, hc) March 2020.

Kyrie McCauley’s intense, realistic, and some­times shocking If These Wings Could Fly has only the most subtle of paranormal touches. It is a haunted house story where the haunting is designed to keep secrets and foster lies rather strike terror through overt acts. But this story of one family’s unraveling in the face ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

The Sound of Stars, Alechia Dow (Inkyard Press 978-1-335-91155-1, $18.99, 432pp, hc) February 2020.

Alechia Dow’s The Sound of Stars opens two years after a first-contact experience (which in retrospect was actually sort of a preliminary invasion) went horribly awry. The Ilori showed up over Earth and humanity responded exactly as every single science fiction story, book, and movie has made clear humanity should not – by trying to ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

A Song Below Water, Bethany C. Morrow (Tor Teen 978-1-250-31532-8, $17.99, 288pp, hc) June 2020.

Bethany Morrow’s A Song Below Water is a difficult novel to sum up in a few words. (Scratch that – it’s impossible to sum up in a few words.) On one level, it is very much a story of sirens and mermaids (and gargoyles, elokos, and pixies) and a version of America that both ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic 978-1-338-63517-1, $27.99, 517pp, hc) May 2020.

In all likelihood, this is the most unnecessary review I have ever written. It is the end of May and Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, has already sold 500,000 copies. Few readers are waiting for reviews to decide if this is a book for them. That reality ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco

Wicked As You Wish, Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks 978-1-4926-7266-1, $17.99, 400pp, hc) February 2020.

Rin Chupeco’s Wicked As You Wish is a sometimes dizzying combination of classic fairy tales and alternate history that draws heavily from the real world and somehow manages to include everything from the Snow Queen to King Arthur to Wonderland to ICE. (Here’s the unlikeliest quote to appear in a YA fantasy novel ever: ”So ICE ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Race to the Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Disney Hyperion 978-136802466-2, $16.99, 298pp, hc) January 2020. Cover by Dale Ray DeForest.

Rick Riordan’s already impressive Disney Hyperion imprint has another winner with Rebecca Roanhorse’s adventure, Race to the Sun. Sporting a southwestern setting and Navajo protagonist while executing a traditional hero/heroine’s journey with aplomb, Race to the Sun hits all the right notes while giving readers an excellent ...Read More

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