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Five Broken Blades

by Mai Corland

Kirkus A team of unlikely partners comes together to assassinate a supposedly unkillable king in Corland’s series opener. A pickpocket and her hired muscle. A highly trained poison assassin and the count’s son who holds the key to her and her sick sister’s freedom. The royal spymaster and the exiled prince. This is the team that just might be able to pull off executing King Joon, the king who calls himself a god. Mikail, the spymaster, knows Joon’s secret: He isn’t truly immortal; he’s just unkillable so long as he’s wearing his crown. The plan? Kill Joon at the massively public tuhko championship game. Aeri the pickpocket will swipe the crown, Sora the assassin will kiss Joon with her poisoned lipstick, and when he dies, the disgraced prince Euyn will be there to take the throne. The plan is so delicate that no one is particularly confident it will succeed, but they each have their own private reasons for dethroning the despotic Joon that are persuasive enough to make them go along with it. The journey is perilous, with pirates and street gangs getting in the way, and then there’s the possibility of a traitor in their midst. Passing from character to character, Corland effectively builds dramatic tension by letting the reader in on enough secrets to show why each conspirator wants to kill the king, but also why each one might betray the group. The prose itself is underdeveloped, with the rotating first-person narration coming off awkwardly. But the final twist lands well as both an ending to this story and a setup for installments to come. An uneven but promising fantasy adventure. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list Sora is an assassin with the ability to kill with just a kiss. Aeri is a cunning thief who can steal in the blink of an eye. Royo is a hired ruffian with a dark past. Tiyung is a spoiled nobleman’s son who has never had to lift a finger. Euyn is an exiled prince thought dead. Mikail is a royal spymaster with a hidden vengeance. Together, they will attempt to pull off the impossible: assassinate the immortal king of Yusan. As their plan comes to fruition, secrets are revealed, romance blossoms, passion is reignited, and blood is spilled. All have their reasons that they need the coup to work. But with a motley crew such as this, the question becomes: can they pull it off without betraying one other? Corland's adult debut is a fantasy novel inspired by Korean myth. While it lacks finesse because of constant telling and not showing, the characters and action will keep readers turning the page. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a massive print run (one million for the standard edition), expect publicity to drive demand for this Korean-myth-inspired epic fantasy.

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Coreland’s debut adult fantasy (after the middle grade novel Emma and the Love Spell, written as Meredith Ireland) takes readers on a wild ride through a world inspired by Korean history and legend. The lives of five highly skilled individuals interweave into an intricate and high-stakes plot to overthrow the immortal King Joon. Sora, a seductive assassin sold into the service of a cruel count, grapples with her forced training as she works to secure freedom for herself and her ailing sister. Royo, a reluctant brute, gets entangled in the scheme thanks to Aeri, an exceptional thief, who hires him as muscle. Meanwhile, King Joon’s own brother, Prince Euyn, who has a brutal past, seizes the chance to reclaim the throne presented by his ex-lover, Mikail, the royal spymaster and the mastermind behind this conspiracy. The group’s mission: to remove the enchanted crown that grants King Joon immortality. Along the way, their individual stories unfold and secrets unravel, forcing each member of the team to question whom they can trust. The heist is suspenseful, the characters are well-shaded, and the world is richly imagined. Skillfully combining espionage, fantasy, romance, and a quest for justice, this marks Corland as an exciting new voice. Agent: Lauren Spieller, Folio Literary. (May)

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