The strong magic system and plentiful conflicts don’t make up for problematic missteps.



From the Serpent & Dove series , Vol. 2

After Serpent & Dove (2019), Lou and Reid must gather allies to take on villainous Morgane.

In a stumbling first act, witch Lou and her forced-husband–turned-love, Reid, struggle to retain likability, making foolish decisions while hiding out from enemies as the heroes regroup and prepare for their next encounter. In a painful bit of characterization, Lou’s sassy empowerment comes at the cost, early on, of the sexual boundaries of the characters around her (unfortunately played as steamy). Further troubling characterization comes in a classist scene in which the heroes mock a dirty, poor person for having missing teeth. To stop Morgane’s murderous endgame spell, they must forge an alliance between enemies: blood witches (Coco’s people), the witch hunters, and werewolves. A colorful surprise alliance comes when they join traveling performers with secrets. Lou and Reid’s romance hits character-driven speed bumps—Lou’s pull toward magic’s darker side isn’t terribly original but is solidly done, and it strengthens Reid’s self-hating and self-acceptance storyline, fueling his anti-magic bias. There’s plenty of action, and secondary characters have their own romantic storylines. The climax gives only a moment to breathe before sinister implications for the next book set in. Though the leads default to white, racial diversity is present in the world and in secondary characters (like brown-skinned Coco and Beau, who is coded as white and Polynesian); additionally, there’s casual inclusion of same-sex relationships and respectful bisexuality representation.

The strong magic system and plentiful conflicts don’t make up for problematic missteps. (Fantasy. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287805-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences.


From the Twilight series , Vol. 5

A long-awaited Twilight (2005) companion novel told from vampire Edward’s point of view.

Edward Cullen, a 104-year-old vampire (and eternal 17-year-old), finds his world turned upside down when new girl Bella Swan’s addictive scent drives a primal hunger, launching the classic story of vampire-meets-girl, vampire-wants-to-eat-girl, vampire-falls-in-love-with-girl. Edward’s broody inner monologue allows readers to follow every beat of his falling in love. The glacial pace and already familiar plot points mean that instead of surprise twists, characterization reigns. Meyer doesn’t shy away from making Edward far less sympathetic than Bella’s view of him (and his mind reading confirms that Bella’s view of him isn’t universal). Bella benefits from being seen without the curtain of self-deprecation from the original book, as Edward analyzes her every action for clues to her personality. The deeper, richer characterization of the leads comes at the expense of the secondary cast, who (with a few exceptions) alternate primarily along gender lines, between dimwitted buffoons and jealous mean girls. Once the vampiric threat from James’ storyline kicks off, vampire maneuvering and strategizing show off the interplay of the Cullens’ powers in a fresh way. After the action of the climax starts in earnest, though, it leans more into summary and monologue to get to the well-known ending. Aside from the Quileutes and the occasional background character, the cast defaults to White.

A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences. (Paranormal romance. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-70704-6

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.


In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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