cover image Lightlark (Lightlark #1)

Lightlark (Lightlark #1)

Alex Aster. Amulet, $19.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4197-6086-0

Every century, the island of Lightlark emerges from the tempest cloaking it to host the Centennial, a 100-day competition between the rulers of six cursed realms, in this beguiling series opener from Aster (the Emblem Island series). To break the curse, one ruler must die during the contest, thus also destroying their realm. In 500 years, none of the immensely powerful participants has ever volunteered their life, nor has anyone been bested, but now that the curses have rendered their lands irreparable, this Centennial is sure to end in bloodshed. The situation terrifies teenage Wildling realm ruler Isla Crown, who, unlike her predecessors, was born without the Wildlings’ innate ability to control or wield nature, making her vulnerable to the other participants’ powers. While relying on her wits and training to survive, Isla must hide her secret lest she become an obvious target. Though the novel’s mythology is murky and its supporting cast lacks depth, Isla’s courage, determination, and compassion invest readers in her plight, imparting tension and drive. The story hits many well-loved and familiar beats, and sumptuously detailed feints, twists, and betrayal lend vibrancy and intrigue. Characters have varying skin tones. Ages 13–up. Agent: Katelyn Detweiler, Jill Grinberg Literary Mgmt. (Aug.)