Superior blend of gutsy action and dreamy magic in a well-wrought, darkly sinister medieval setting.

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THE MERLIN OF THE OAK WOOD

VOL. II OF THE JOAN OF ARC TAPESTRIES

Chamberlin’s provocative, 15th-century fantasy series continues, with just enough sex, sorcery, and brutally realistic swordplay for the young Jehannette d’ Arc to emerge as the powerful culmination of all three. Gilles de Rais, the historical Bluebeard, has come into his own as a terrific fighter, though he is continually frustrated by the treacherous betrayals and shifting alliances that turn his hard-won victories for France into embarrassing routs. After ransoming his corrupt cousin from a Loire Valley fortress, he capriciously saves the life of a young boy. That boy dies, but, in liberating his spirit, the crippled sorcerer priest Père Yann, who was raised with de Rais in Chamberlin’s The Merlin of St. Gille’s Well (1999), learns the identity of the young girl La Pucelle, the fabled figure who will unite France and get rid of the English usurpers (known throughout as the “goddams”). Of course, young Jehannette d’ Arc is confused to hear the boy’s spirit whisper to her of destiny. One of three daughters born to the second wife of a peasant, she hates weaving, and would rather ride bareback and spin staff as a weapon, all to the consternation of her mother. Fortunately, the kindly Père Michel, a member of Père Yann’s magic sect of Good Neighbors, assures Jehannette that she will one day discover herself to be the right person in the right place at the right time. At the siege of a Bretagne castle, teams up with Hamish Power, a Scottish mage, just in time to give the skeptical de Rais a talisman that miraculously saves him when a move to storm the battlements seems to go awry. In jumping from Yann to de Rais to young Jehannette, Chamberlin shows how the arts of enchantment and the arts of war can be combined to create an irresistible, bisexual energy in her young heroine. At the close, Jehannette, having discovered that she is France’s savior, gathers an army around her to raise the siege of Orleans.

Superior blend of gutsy action and dreamy magic in a well-wrought, darkly sinister medieval setting.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-87284-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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