A promising first chapter in a new fantasy series that seamlessly weaves magic and politics.

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Librarian

In Fence’s fantasy debut, a librarian protects a jewel from factions who seek its power while journeying across a world fraught with magic and mystery.

Lenna suffers through a dull day working at the library, waiting for a shipment of books from the magic-wielding Brotherhood. Her childhood friend Gilbert appears with his traveling companion, a young mage named Luc, and they ask for her help in a mission that could unify the land’s four nations. Lenna agrees to shelter the pair, but on their way to her home, a member of the Brotherhood attacks them, and they discover that Lenna has magic powers of her own. When Lenna’s father finds out about the encounter, he orders Lenna to travel with Gilbert and Luc, since the Brotherhood is now hunting them. Armed with her late mother’s dagger, she sets off to learn more about herself and her previously unknown abilities. Tragedy strikes when a mage attacks them, and Lenna is entrusted with a gemstone of mysterious power. Lenna’s travels take her to her mother’s homeland, the land of Freewomen, and finally to the city of Tranum near the border of the militaristic Krevlum Empire, where the truth of the gem’s power is finally revealed. This first installment of Lenna’s story doesn’t answer all questions; indeed, at the conclusion, her self-discovery is only just beginning. Fence writes in a tone that’s engaging and confident, and he crafts an intriguing world of shifting politics and magical elements. For fantasy fans, he delivers a wholly realized explanation for his world’s magic system. The characters who aid Lenna each have compelling back stories and effectively draw out Lenna’s strength and personality; at the story’s beginning, she was content to remain reclusive and ignorant of the struggles around her. At the book’s conclusion, Fence promises to expand his world’s scope and up the stakes for Lenna and her friends.

A promising first chapter in a new fantasy series that seamlessly weaves magic and politics.     

Pub Date: May 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989366304

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Moon Rabbit Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2013

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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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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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