An often engaging tale that deftly mixes action with the supernatural.

READ REVIEW

HARLEM ANGEL

BOOK ONE OF THE CIRCLE

In this paranormal thriller, a woman’s cryptic dream unlocks a remarkable secret and puts her in the crosshairs of a mysterious enemy.

One evening, two men murder Zacharias, a kindly Chicago shopkeeper. As the attack unfolds, Zacharias catches a glimpse of a young woman watching through his shop window. At that moment, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, that woman, Soraya Rawlings, awakens; she thinks that the murder scene she saw was just the latest in a series of nightmares. Her mother, Constance Rawlings, believes these dreams to be significant, and she tells Soraya to see Iona Mabutu, a local shop owner. Iona reveals that she’s part of a circle of soothsayers that included Zacharias and still includes others around the country—and that Soraya’s “dream” was real. She says that Soraya is a “seer” and that she’s willing to take her on as her apprentice. Meanwhile, Shawn Kites, the president of DNAgen Biolabs, pursues a sinister agenda. His company develops drugs that promise miracle cures—but one of them could be used for lethal purposes. He also knows about the Circle and plans to counteract their influence. As Soraya’s powers grow stronger, Shawn makes a surprising discovery of his own, putting the future of the Circle in jeopardy. Hardwick’s (Laughing Your Life Healthy, 2017) thriller offers a chilling premise and memorable protagonists. The novel starts off on a strong note with a tense action sequence that effectively establishes a sense of danger and highlights Soraya’s special abilities. Hardwick ably maintains a quick pace as the story shifts from Soraya to Shawn as his plan unfolds. The major players are well-drawn: Soraya is a likable heroine who tries to balance the responsibilities of her newly discovered abilities with caring for her mother, and the racist Shawn is a deeply unsympathetic but complex villain whose narrative arc takes some surprising turns. That said, some of the supporting characters could have been developed more fully, particularly other members of the Circle scattered around the country, such as Fanny Mae in Miami and Willamae in Washington, D.C.

An often engaging tale that deftly mixes action with the supernatural.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5462-2428-0

Page Count: 334

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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

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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