cover image Shades of Rust and Ruin

Shades of Rust and Ruin

A.G. Howard. Bloomsbury, $18.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5476-0808-9

Draping fae mythology in steampunk trappings, Howard (the Splintered series) launches a moody dark fantasy series opener that recalls Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market. On Halloween night three years ago, then-14-year-old Nix Loring, who is white with partial albinism, discovered her twin sister, Lark, dead in their shared bunk bed. Out of grief and guilt, she abandoned the imaginary steampunk fae world, Mystiquel, that the twins created together, which Nix developed through her art. Now 17, Nix’s life is thrown into further turmoil when her legal guardian, Uncle Thatch, goes missing. Joined by Lark’s brown-skinned ex-boyfriend Clarey Darden, a talented special effects makeup artist who has Waardenburg syndrome and experiences panic attacks, Nix manages guilt over her growing feelings for Clarey while following clues that transport the duo to Mystiquel. There she meets Perish, the goblin king, who offers her a deal: heal the realm, which has decayed since she abandoned it, and he’ll set her, Clarey, and Thatch free. Employing deliberate plotting, intricate worldbuilding, and a plethora of mystical creatures, such as cyborg faeries, Howard keenly examines themes of grief and guilt against an eerie backdrop. Ages 13–up. Agent: Jenny Bent, Bent Agency. (Sept.)