Rice’s latest excursion into otherly realms may leave some readers feeling overstuffed—but others, to be sure, will be...

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PRINCE LESTAT AND THE REALMS OF ATLANTIS

THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES

Having perhaps bled all the possibilities out of earthly children of the night, Rice (Prince Lestat, 2014, etc.) takes a bite out of two big bodies of myth.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Pity poor Prince Lestat; he was once able to roam the world without a care, nipping and frolicking, but now he has administrative duties and, with them, fresh enemies seeking a shot at power. One constant source of irritation is the stately Rhoshamandes who has suddenly come into an all-day sucker of a captive whose ever flowing juice has “nutrients that human blood does not have.” A fine thing for a vampire’s inventory, to be sure, but a portal as well into a world whose technology, as so often happens, has outpaced its morals. Down in that watery realm, the denizens scorn the place where “a dreadful thing had happened in that mammals had gained self-awareness and intelligence and now ruled the planet.” The better to provide vampire chow, one might say. But the Atalantayans have their hungers, too, and the hungriest of them seems to have latched on to poor Lestat. Inner voice, nothing: Amel is much more than a haunting spirit, “as different from ghosts,” another superevolved being tells us, “as angels are from humans.” Who will prevail? Well, if Amel sometimes conjures Charlie Manson, Lestat sounds like Twiggy once the fussing and feuding between immortal domains is settled: “This is our universe,” he says, “We too are made of stardust as are all things on this planet; we too belong.” Yeah, well. Fans of Rice’s vampire fiction will feast on whatever they can of hers, but Ignatius Donnelly/Edgar Cayce aficionados may twitch at all the “kindred in the Blood” stuff uneasily mixed in with the old lost continent mythos.

Rice’s latest excursion into otherly realms may leave some readers feeling overstuffed—but others, to be sure, will be hungry for more.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-35379-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot...

THE RULES OF MAGIC

The Owens sisters are back—not in their previous guise as elderly aunties casting spells in Hoffman’s occult romance Practical Magic (1995), but as fledgling witches in the New York City captured in Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids.

In that magical, mystical milieu, Franny and Bridget are joined by a new character: their foxy younger brother, Vincent, whose “unearthly” charm sends grown women in search of love potions. Heading into the summer of 1960, the three Owens siblings are ever more conscious of their family's quirkiness—and not just the incidents of levitation and gift for reading each other's thoughts while traipsing home to their parents' funky Manhattan town house. The instant Franny turns 17, they are all shipped off to spend the summer with their mother's aunt in Massachusetts. Isabelle Owens might enlist them for esoteric projects like making black soap or picking herbs to cure a neighbor's jealousy, but she at least offers respite from their fretful mother's strict rules against going shoeless, bringing home stray birds, wandering into Greenwich Village, or falling in love. In short order, the siblings meet a know-it-all Boston cousin, April, who brings them up to speed on the curse set in motion by their Salem-witch ancestor, Maria Owens. It spells certain death for males who attempt to woo an Owens woman. Naturally this knowledge does not deter the current generation from circumventing the rule—Bridget most passionately, Franny most rationally, and Vincent most recklessly (believing his gender may protect him). In time, the sisters ignore their mother's plea and move to Greenwich Village, setting up an apothecary, while their rock-star brother, who glimpsed his future in Isabelle’s nifty three-way mirror, breaks hearts like there's no tomorrow. No one's more confident or entertaining than Hoffman at putting across characters willing to tempt fate for true love.

Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot twist—delivering everything fans of a much-loved book could hope for in a prequel.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3747-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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