Simply brilliant.

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BREATH OF FIRE

From the The Kingmaker Chronicles series , Vol. 2

Cat and Griffin continue their quest to bring just leadership to the three realms but must navigate hostile landscapes, magical creatures, and even a gladiator-style to-the-death battle before they can overcome the malevolent ruler of Tarva to unite it with Sinta.

Bouchet’s sophomore title (A Promise of Fire, 2016), the second in a planned trilogy, is as consummately crafted as the first. Cat has found happiness with her love, Griffin—the warrior who overcame the vicious, greedy Sinta royalty, winning his family the right to rule the kingdom—yet has hidden her true identity as the Lost Princess of Fisa, one of the other two realms of Thalyria. But Cat is more than a princess or warrior; more even than the legendary Kingmaker foretold in prophecies. In fact, as the blood heir to Fisa, she is a demigoddess. In Griffin’s mind she is the key to bringing the three realms together under their combined rule. In her mind, she’s the “harbinger of the end. Destroyer of realms.” Cat blames herself for the deaths of her siblings and is unable to see herself as a hero in any way, but when Griffin and his small band of warriors decide to take her advice and travel to find a magical race of creatures to help protect their borders, she refuses to stay behind. The quest leads them to the Chaos Wizard, a world of snow and ice, a maze navigated with magic thread, a classic riddle, and a battle with a Cyclops—with unexpected allies and a few jaw-dropping moments of true deus ex machina that make it clear Cat has some extraordinarily powerful friends in high places and that it looks like the gods are smiling on Cat and Griffin’s plans for a new world order. With breathtaking storytelling, high-octane action and adventure, intense romance, and threads to ancient Greek mythology that both ground the worldbuilding and spin it in new, imaginative directions, Bouchet sets the bar for high-concept fantasy romance.

Simply brilliant.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-2604-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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