cover image Kindling


Traci Chee. HarperCollins, $19.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06326-9354

Employing simple yet brutal worldbuilding rendered in raw prose, Chee (A Thousand Steps into Night) offers an unflinching look into the horrors of war in this Seven Samurai–inspired tale. To help protect her community from raiders, a youth from the small farming village of Camas sets out in search of kindlings, magical soldiers who were conscripted as children into a centuries-long war between opposing nations. After the conflict, during which they burned out their powers and themselves, the kindlings inhabit a country plagued by violence that has outlawed the very magic it once used for its own purposes. Living as houseless, orphaned drifters—whose kin were either purged from record or paid off—some kindlings use their diminished but no less powerful skills for professions considered more unsavory. As the farm girl embarks on her quest, she sets off a chain of events that will bring together seven kindlings for one last battle. Chee expertly conveys the characters’ personalities, cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds via a second-person narrative that decisively differentiates the large cast’s voices. Teeming with frank examinations of war, violence, PTSD, imperialism, colonialism, and all they entail, this somber fantasy will challenge readers mentally and emotionally. Ages 14–up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary. (Feb.)