And Break the Pretty Kings

HarperTeen. (The Sacred Bone Series: Bk. 1). Jun. 2023. 448p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063241640.
Gr 6 Up–Mirae has trained all her life to pass the Sacred Bone trials and inherit the queendom of Seolla. However, her training is cut years short when her mother succumbs to the madness that stems from protecting Seolla from sworn enemy, the Inconstant Son. When the trial goes horribly wrong, her parents are incapacitated and her brother Minho is kidnapped by Seolla’s neighboring kingdom, Josan. Mirae, cheeky younger brother Hongbin, friend and protector Captain Jia, and Josan servant Sewon, who was present at the time of Minho’s kidnapping, set out to save Minho, reunite the two kingdoms, and destroy the Inconstant Son. Steeped in Korean mythology, Mirae’s magic and world is beautifully depicted. Her struggle to understand her newfound powers, whom to trust, and the secrets of the centuries-old feud with the Inconstant Son, and even his very identity, add urgency and tension to the story. However, the scattered plot detracts from the emotional impact and can be hard to follow. Problems are often too easily resolved, leaving character development between Mirae and her antagonists feeling unearned. Mirae’s ability to transport to the future for a short time gives readers a tantalizing glimpse at their possible downfall, heightening the stakes, but sometimes feels more like an afterthought than purposeful breadcrumb.
VERDICT A lyrical, magical tale sure to entertain readers of Elizabeth Lim, but one that twists too much, too soon.

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