Readers who enjoy their fantasy fast and furious will find Ryan’s latest to be an immensely satisfying, top-notch adventure...

THE WOLF'S CALL

In the first installment of Ryan’s new fantasy series—essentially a continuation of Vaelin Al Sorna’s story from the Raven’s Shadow trilogy—the legendary warrior, attempting to live a quiet life in the Northern Reaches of the Unified Realm, is lured across the ocean to the kingdoms of the Far West to save a lost love.

Sherin is a healer of great renown whom Vaelin once loved. He sent her to the Far West to keep her safe years earlier, but when he receives word that the tribes of the Iron Steppe have unified under a man named the Darkblade—who considers himself a god—and that Sherin is at the epicenter of an imminent war, he sets off on a quest to find and save her. Accompanying Vaelin are a misfit group of adventurers—including Nortah Al Sendahl, a disgraced nobleman and warrior struggling with his inner demons; Alum Vi Moreska, an immigrant Vaelin freed from slavery; and Ellese, Vaelin’s niece and heir to the Fiefdom of Cumbrael, who is found as a stowaway long after the ship has set sail. Once the group reach the Far West, they discover that Sherin—known as the Grace of Heaven to the westerners—has disappeared with the Jade Princess, an ageless woman who lives in a remote temple above the clouds and is mythically powerful. Though the book is characterized by breakneck pacing, deeply developed characters, and impressively intricate plotlines, it’s Ryan’s (Many Are the Dead, 2018, etc.) subtle focus on vivid worldbuilding (particularly on varied sensory descriptions) that makes this such an immersive read. Although the conclusion is little more than a respite, the nonstop action, richly described setting, and cast of intriguing characters more than make up for it.

Readers who enjoy their fantasy fast and furious will find Ryan’s latest to be an immensely satisfying, top-notch adventure fantasy.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-49251-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ace/Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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

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NINTH HOUSE

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: 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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