A sweeping fusion of fantasy elements, boiled to perfection.

SUNRISE

PACT ARCANUM: BOOK TWO

Vampire mythology, music, magic and science fiction fuse in the second installment of Ahsanuddin’s (Sunset, 2011) Pact Arcanum series, a homoerotic tale of lust and power.

Sentinel Antonio Martinez is quick to realize he’s found three members of the Four Winds in Rory, Ana and Takeshi, the young musicians of the band Nightfall. Having rescued the longtime friends from two bloodthirsty predators, Martinez assists the trio in understanding their destiny and the bandmates, out celebrating the debut of their breakthrough album, soon find life has more to offer than mere concert dates. Beginning in the not-so-distant future of 2015 and continuing to 2039, the newly reborn musicians are soon embroiled in a world of Nightwalkers, Sentinels and the dark Court of Shadows. The novel’s science fiction elements, particularly the author’s use of House Lucian, House Jiao-long, off-world travel and other cosmic references, evoke Frank Herbert’s operatic Dune novels. Hierarchal themes may also ring familiar to adult readers of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, though Ahsanuddin brings a crisp edge to the telling. And, like Vampire Academy, the allure of forbidden romance plays an integral role in the development of the novel’s central characters, particularly in Rory’s love for Takeshi. Toss in the usual doses of Anne Rice’s homoerotic Vampire Chronicles and Stephanie Meyers virtuous Twilight series and you will find Ahsanuddin’s surprisingly provocative sophomore novel. The story’s main characters, like Rice’s vampire much hyped Lestat, are beautiful, eager musicians consumed by the eternal struggle of good and evil. Ahsanuddin melds the elements at his command with powerful literary alchemy. Eloquently written, the words more than the tale shape the romantic flow of this adult story as the members of Nightfall struggle to understand their gifts and the drama of their new lives. This prequel to Ahsanuddin’s first novel Sunset takes readers on an engaging trip into the dark underworld of desire and power—a foray written with sharp clarity and passion.

A sweeping fusion of fantasy elements, boiled to perfection.

Pub Date: April 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456358440

Page Count: 313

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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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 celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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