A yarn that promises more than it delivers. Fans will be entitled to a small measure of disappointment.

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SINS OF EMPIRE

From the Gods of Blood and Powder series , Vol. 1

A new sequence, following the outstanding Powder Mage fantasy trilogy (The Autumn Republic, 2015, etc.) and set in the same war-torn world—gratifyingly, some of the characters reappear—gets under way.

In a narrative that builds upon, but adds no fresh ideas to, the previous books, the scene switches to the land of Fatrasta and its capital city, Landfall. Here, the natives, called Palo, suffer under the repressive government of Lady Chancellor Lindet and her chief enforcer, the psychopathic Fidelis Jes, grand master of the Blackhats, the secret police. So great is the unrest that Lindet engages powder mage (one who ignites powerful magic by inhaling or ingesting gunpowder) Vlora and her army, the Riflejack Mercenary Company, to defend the city and keep order. Jes, meanwhile, orders Blackhat spy Michel Bravis to find the individuals responsible for stirring the Palo to rebellion. Lindet also has a secret project to secure a powerfully magical “godstone” abandoned by a long-vanished civilization—but why? Other important actors in the drama include Ben Styke, ex-colonel of the Mad Lancers (clad in impenetrable magic armor, they devastated opposing armies in the previous books), now falsely imprisoned for treachery by Jes, and the enigmatic Gregious Tampo, who seems far too well-informed and resourceful to be merely the lawyer he represents himself as. These sturdily drawn characters struggle, contend, and plot, not always in entirely convincing fashion, amid brief bursts of action. After 500 pages of this elaborate and often remarkable scenery-chewing, McClellan finally delivers the concluding furious, visceral, and relentlessly thrilling action that so delighted readers of the original trilogy.

A yarn that promises more than it delivers. Fans will be entitled to a small measure of disappointment.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-40721-2

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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