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NAVOLA

Sharp enough to draw blood.

A kindhearted heir to a banking fortune in a fantasy analog of Venice receives several brutal lessons concerning how little such kindness will serve him.

Intelligent, nature-loving Davico di Regulai dreams of becoming a doctor and marrying his foster sister, Celia. It is obvious to all that he doesn’t have the ruthlessness and strategic ability of his ambitious, arrogant father, Devonaci, who, despite his lack of noble blood, not so secretly controls the city of Navola through his vast banking interests. But as the heir to the di Regulai estate, Davico has no choice but to ineffectively follow the path his father has laid out for him—which certainly does not include medicine or becoming Celia’s husband. His struggle to live up to his family’s considerable reputation is so acute it gives him ulcers. Meanwhile, Devonaci’s plots have earned him many enemies, some lurking more closely than he knows; unfortunately, not all of them are as weak and foolish as he supposes, leaving Davico in a very vulnerable position. Is there anyone he can trust? Is there any use or value to his own unique talents in the treacherous society that he calls home? He will be forced to find out. The plunge of this political fantasy into grimdark might feel shocking, but it’s not like the author doesn’t provide plenty of warning. Throughout the narrative, the reader is shown that Davico’s honesty and unwillingness to harm others put him at a great disadvantage in his society; infused with painful and realistic political maneuvering, this is not a classic epic fantasy in which the good must prevail. And yet, the novel’s climax shares significant elements with a fantasy from that era: Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber (1970). Perhaps both authors drew from the same historical source; perhaps it’s an homage. It’s a bit jarring when so much of the story has a wonderful freshness to it. But regardless of the source, the book employs these plot elements extremely effectively. And it is clear that Bacigalupi has his own kind of epic in mind; despite the already hefty page count, this is only the start of a significant and painful journey and some considerable character development.

Sharp enough to draw blood.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9780593535059

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2024

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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