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THE NOSFERATU CONSPIRACY

BOOK TWO: THE SOMMELIER

A tangled but rich horror story that imagines a secret occult history of Europe.

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A supernatural rivalry fuels World War I in this alternative-history sequel.

Vampire attacks have ravaged St. Petersburg and gutted the Russian royal family. An ancient castle has reappeared on a German mountaintop, and a coven of demon worshippers has just resurrected an entity known as the Death Witch in the body of a teenage girl. Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II is desperately seeking a small bottle of blood—so frantically, in fact, that he was willing to orchestrate the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand rather than let his rival find it before he did. (The ghost of the archduke now haunts the Kaiser as an act of posthumous revenge.) The blood belongs to none other than the famous medieval warlock Vlad Drăculea, and the Kaiser believes it will grant immortality to him and his mistress. The bottle is currently in the possession of Vlad’s younger brother, Radu cel Frumos, an immortal witch hunter who has survived the intervening centuries using a series of false identities, the latest of which is the Sommelier. The only thing standing in the way of the Kaiser and the domination of Europe by a cabal of diabolical forces are the Russian vampire hunters Prince Felix Yusupov and Rurik Kozlov, who recently helped prevent great devastation in Russia. A clash is coming, and it will happen in the vicinity of the French city of Arras. Gage excels at unsettling readers through his sharp, startling imagery: “The sound of animal hooves and snorting filled the room, followed by a loud bang. Felix looked up and was astonished to see the officer being gored against the wall by a large boar with sharp tusks. The man looked panicked and surprised as he slid down the wall, finally falling unconscious.” The story takes a while to get rolling, leading with a lot of complex mythology that at times feels weighty or silly. But once things begin in earnest, the tale proves an immersive and monster-filled epic. It turns out the only thing scarier than the vampires and demons is World War I itself.

A tangled but rich horror story that imagines a secret occult history of Europe.

Pub Date: March 20, 2022

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 654

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE FAMILIAR

Lush, gorgeous, precise language and propulsive plotting sweep readers into a story as intelligent as it is atmospheric.

In 16th-century Madrid, a crypto-Jew with a talent for casting spells tries to steer clear of the Inquisition.

Luzia Cotado, a scullion and an orphan, has secrets to keep: “It was a game she and her mother had played, saying one thing and thinking another, the bits and pieces of Hebrew handed down like chipped plates.” Also handed down are “refranes”—proverbs—in “not quite Spanish, just as Luzia was not quite Spanish.” When Luzia sings the refranes, they take on power. “Aboltar cazal, aboltar mazal” (“A change of scene, a change of fortune”) can mend a torn gown or turn burnt bread into a perfect loaf; “Quien no risica, no rosica” (“Whoever doesn’t laugh, doesn’t bloom”) can summon a riot of foliage in the depths of winter. The Inquisition hangs over the story like Chekhov’s famous gun on the wall. When Luzia’s employer catches her using magic, the ambitions of both mistress and servant catapult her into fame and danger. A new, even more ambitious patron instructs his supernatural servant, Guillén Santángel, to train Luzia for a magical contest. Santángel, not Luzia, is the familiar of the title; he has been tricked into trading his freedom and luck to his master’s family in exchange for something he no longer craves but can’t give up. The novel comes up against an issue common in fantasy fiction: Why don’t the characters just use their magic to solve all their problems? Bardugo has clearly given it some thought, but her solutions aren’t quite convincing, especially toward the end of the book. These small faults would be harder to forgive if she weren’t such a beautiful writer. Part fairy tale, part political thriller, part romance, the novel unfolds like a winter tree bursting into unnatural bloom in response to one of Luzia’s refranes, as she and Santángel learn about power, trust, betrayal, and love.

Lush, gorgeous, precise language and propulsive plotting sweep readers into a story as intelligent as it is atmospheric.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250884251

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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