A world most readers will already know but a story told with affection and skill.



Humans and mystical creatures band together to stop an evil sorcerer in Batchelder’s debut, the first in a fantasy series.

Tarmun Vykers is a notorious warrior called The Reaper. He’s mercilessly beaten by men and left in the forest with his hands and feet severed. He finds an unlikely rescuer in Arune, the ghost of a being (called a Shaper) capable of magic. Vykers agrees to share his body with Arune in exchange for his extremities—even if they’re invisible. Before he can return to full strength, he’s captured by the Virgin Queen’s men. The Queen, despite being the one who ordered Vykers’ mutilation, needs the warrior’s help. A powerful sorcerer calling himself The End-of-All-Things is decimating the land and its people, and the Queen wants Vykers to halt the End’s advance. Aoife, meanwhile, seeks vengeance against her brother Anders (aka the End). One of the magical A’Shea, Aoife gives birth to beasts of the forest, such as a satyr, all of whom will soon join the fight against her wicked brother. Numerous prolonged journeys occur before the impending battle. But Batchelder maintains impressive momentum with short scenes, switching between, for example, Vykers and Long Pete, who, along with friends, joins the Queen’s military. There’s likewise distinction among the plethora of characters: Arune’s merely a voice in Vykers’ head but offers sage advice and takes over if necessary (rendering the warrior unconscious to avoid a fight he’d likely lose); and Spirk, one of Long’s traveling companions, clearly functions as comic relief. The fantasy treks through mostly familiar terrain, including magical swords and chimeras that fight alongside Vykers. But there are original creatures too, like the Svarren, which are misshapen, wart-covered humanoid beings. The plot, not surprisingly, entails a hefty amount of action, especially once it reaches the inevitable conflict between the End’s and the Queen’s armies. Intrigue, however, abounds when swords aren’t clashing: the chimeras may be untrustworthy, while at least one character is not what he or she seems. Vykers is a remarkable, indelible protagonist, an antihero as equally lethal as the End.

A world most readers will already know but a story told with affection and skill.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491091753

Page Count: 548

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.


A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller


Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?