A deeply satisfying but bleak, dark work; its only illumination are flashes of high tragedy and perhaps the glimmers of a...

THE LAST MORTAL BOND

From the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series , Vol. 3

Humanity teeters toward doom in the concluding Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne (The Providence of Fire, 2015, etc.).

The invading Urghul army nears the heart of the crumbling Annurian empire, led by Long Fist, the human host of Meshkent, the god of pain. The Annurian general, Ran il Tornja, appears to be defending the empire, but his main goal is to kill both Long Fist and the courtesan Triste, the human host of Ciena, goddess of pleasure. Doing so will exterminate most of humanity while potentially converting the remainder to il Tornja’s own kind, the long-lived, emotionless Csestriim. Kaden, the abdicated emperor, abandons his ineffectual attempts at politics and devotes himself to protecting Meshkent and Ciena’s hosts. His sister, Adare, the self-declared new emperor, rallies Annur’s defenses and tries to defuse the plots of il Tornja, her baby’s father. Her brother Valyn, betrayed by Adare and blinded by il Tornja, searches both for a purpose and the death of Balendin, Long Fist’s deputy, a leach whose magical power feeds on pain and terror. Many classic epic fantasies have concluded with the defeat of the Big Bad, followed by the wiping away of pain and terror and the start of a glorious, happy future for the hero. This novel lays out a much more plausible truth: it’s difficult forging a future on a nation ruined by war and civil unrest; the past’s consequences persist. No one is wholly good or wholly bad, and sometimes, even when protagonists have reached the very limits of their strength to earn their happy endings, there is no happy ending available, no matter how deserving they are of such a thing.

A deeply satisfying but bleak, dark work; its only illumination are flashes of high tragedy and perhaps the glimmers of a realistic but not far-ranging hope.

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3642-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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

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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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