A Dark and Hollow Star

S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry. Feb. 2021. 512p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534453678.
Gr 9 Up–Faeries secretly live alongside humans, but an outbreak of magical violence threatens the peace. Humans are disappearing and ironborn, half-fae and half-human, are being magically murdered. In Toronto, ironborn Arlo witnesses a murder and is compelled to find answers. When her uncle the High King refuses to seriously investigate, she teams up with two teen fae and one exiled immortal to solve the mysteries. The faerie fantasy market is saturated, but the distinctive feature of this series starter is the four queer main characters who have a range of skin tones. Numerous secondary characters have diverse gender identities, creating multiple opportunities for deftly handled discussions of respectful pronoun usage, crafted by an author who uses they/them pronouns. Characters are vivid, with motivating, sometimes mysterious, backstories. The high stakes of the plot are balanced with humor, particularly from the irreverent and snarky Nausicaä. Shuttleworth weaves together multiple mythologies: Greco-Roman Furies and dieties, Irish faerie lore, Western alchemy, the seven sins of Christianity, and the format and tools of modern role player games. The resulting vocabulary may cause confusion, and the complex world-building is accomplished through detailed exposition that sometimes interrupts the plot. While the main mystery is solved, unanswered questions will motivate readers to continue the series. Many young adults will love this novel’s stellar queer representation, as well as the oft-repeated refrain that the adults should be the ones handling this mess.
VERDICT A promising opener to an urban faerie fantasy series featuring multiple queer identities.

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