Abrams/Amulet. Jan. 2023. 432p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781419759314.
Gr 7 Up–In the land of Raddith, anger and hate left to fester in a person’s heart form a “curse egg” and those who carry curse eggs can wreak havoc on the lives of those around them. Everyone who isn’t a curser is vulnerable to being cursed for real or imagined slights; every interaction with a stranger can turn dangerous quickly. Kellen, who possesses a mysterious ability to “unravel” these curses by finding their source and cause, and his companion Nettle, a girl who was cursed to be a heron until Kellen saved her, are hired to unravel a very specific curse by a strange marsh horseman named Gall. However, as they traverse the curse-ridden and creature-filled woods known as the Wilds, it becomes increasingly clear that whatever has given Kellen the power to unravel curses must be reversed before he unravels himself and everyone else. Characteristically lush and transportive descriptions accompany a rapidly paced, consistently suspenseful plot, keeping readers firmly planted in the land of Raddith from beginning to end. Hardinge again displays her knack for imbuing mythological-feeling tales with casts of creatures and characters who are fully realized and impeccably described, rendered in astonishing detail while carefully avoiding verbosity. Introspective realizations, the processing of uncomfortable feelings, and the importance of knowing and understanding oneself are continual throughlines in the narrative, along with the insidious effects of allowing fury and hate to grow unchecked.
VERDICT Another deeply atmospheric, compulsively readable yet utterly unsettling offering from Hardinge. Highly recommended for all libraries serving teens.

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