Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Feb. 2023. 480p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593463277.
Gr 8 Up–Matilde, Æsa, and Sayer (ethnicities not stated) have only one thing in common: they are Nightbirds, blessed with magic from the wellspring. The Great Houses have kept them and the others before them a secret from the rest of Simta, where magic is outlawed. In return, the Nightbirds have a duty to kiss rich clients and in doing so, temporarily gift them with magical abilities. But with political unrest come many threats to the Nightbirds’ safety, and they are forced into hiding. With secrets and betrayals lurking around every corner, only one thing is certain—the Nightbirds must stick together to survive the political upheaval, and zealots who want them dead for the magic they possess. The dazzling world-building is reminiscent of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval. The plot is full of secrets, betrayals, and twists that will make readers reluctant to set the book down for any length of time. The characters are all believable and relatable, with strengths and weaknesses to boot, and the story is laced with just enough romance.
VERDICT With refreshingly original characters and lush language, this debut fantasy will leave readers clamoring for the sequel.

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