S. & S./McElderry. (House of the Dead Duology: Bk. 1). Jul. 2023. 464p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781665910590.
Gr 8 Up–In this novel pitched as Gideon the Ninth meets Game of Thrones, Wren Graven is determined to become a valkyr who can make her father proud. The only grandchild of the Lady-Smith of the House of Bone and a bastard who ruined her father’s chance to marry into the royal family, Wren is an excellent valky—but not good at the political machinations that come with House politics. When the plots of a rival student render her exiled to the Breachfort, a wall of stone and bone erected during the last war to keep out the undead, she can only hope for a chance to prove herself worthy of returning. When a visiting prince is kidnapped, Wren teams up with Julian from the denounced House of Iron to save him. Preto’s story is heavy on exposition to establish the worldbuilding, but Wren’s impetuous personality carries readers through the opening chapters to the Breachfort and beyond, where mysteries about Wren’s family and birth begin to reveal themselves on an action-packed mission. Game of Thrones fans will see a number of plot points line up between Wren’s House of Bone and the Stark family. The romantic tension between Wren and Julian raises the stakes of the adventure, as does Wren’s growing friendship with the prince. Preto’s character arcs are as carefully plotted as her adventures, exploring privilege, filial piety, and generational trauma. The characters and worldbuilding are diverse.
VERDICT An expository opening turns into an action-oriented undead adventure. Recommended for secondary purchase.

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