As with the real New Orleans, once you leave this creepier but just as colorful variant, you'll be eager to go back.

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GATHER THE FORTUNES

A brainy, awesomely resourceful heroine makes her way through a supernatural doppelgänger of New Orleans to track down a missing soul and, in the process, save both her world and ours from unimaginable catastrophe.

Readers of Camp’s debut, The City of Lost Fortunes (2018), may remember a captivating, tough-talking young woman named Renaissance “Renai” Raines, who died in 2011 and reawakened a few weeks later in a “new reality…where myths walked the streets of New Orleans and magic was possible.” Renai’s role in this fascinating if macabre realm is as a “psychopomp,” whose task, roughly speaking, is to break apart the mortal coils of the dead and lead what remains of their souls into the Underworld. With guidance from a talking raven named Salvatore, Renai’s been gradually shaking away her awkwardness with this uneasy calling; that is, until one soul destined for passage belonging to an adolescent boy named Ramses St. Cyr vanishes from the site of a drive-by shooting along with the rest of what should have been his dead body. And so with Sal and another talking bird named Cordelia by her side (or, more precisely, on her shoulders), Renai mounts her ghost motorcycle to probe the corners of her shadow universe to find Ramses. Along the way she interrogates shape-shifters, tricksters, and a wily sorcerer named Jack Elderflower, who has somehow managed to cheat death without having a soul. The more she finds out, the more questions she has; most of them having to do with whatever consequences could ensue for both the living and the dead if Ramses continues to avoid his ultimate fate. In this second installment of his Crescent City urban fantasy series, Camp raises the stakes and broadens the scope of his alternate world; at times his impulse to further explain the nuances of this world make his new book a bit slower going than its predecessor. But the richness and inventiveness of Camp’s vision and the vivacity, warmth, and compassion of his leading woman keep you alert to whatever’s happening next.

As with the real New Orleans, once you leave this creepier but just as colorful variant, you'll be eager to go back.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-87671-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW

In this tale of a young German Jewish girl under the protection of a golem—a magical creature of Jewish myth created from mud and water—Hoffman (The Rules of Magic, 2017, etc.) employs her signature lyricism to express the agony of the Holocaust with a depth seldom equaled in more seemingly realistic accounts.

The golem, named Ava, comes into being in 1941 Berlin. Recently made a widow by the Gestapo and desperate to get her 12-year-old daughter, Lea, out of Germany, Hanni Kohn hires Ettie, a rabbi’s adolescent daughter who has witnessed her father creating a golem, to make a female creature who must obey Hanni by protecting Lea at all costs. Ettie uses Hanni’s payment to escape on the same train toward France as Lea and Ava, but the two human girls’ lives take different paths. Ettie, who has always chafed at the limits placed on her gender, becomes a Resistance fighter set on avenging her younger sister’s killing by Nazis. Lea, under Ava’s supernatural care, escapes the worst ravages of the war, staying first with distant cousins in Paris (already under Gestapo rule), where she falls in love with her hosts' 14-year-old son, Julien; then in a convent school hiding Jewish girls in the Rhone Valley; then in a forest village not far from where Ettie has partnered in her Resistance activities with Julien’s older brother. While Lea’s experiences toughen and mature her, Ettie never stops mourning her sister but finds something like love with a gentle gentile doctor who has his own heartbreaking backstory. In fact, everyone in the large cast of supporting human characters—as well as the talking heron that is Ava’s love interest and Azriel, the Angel of Death—becomes vividly real, but Ava the golem is the heart of the book. Representing both fierce maternal love and the will to survive, she forces Lea and Ettie to examine their capacities to make ethical choices and to love despite impossible circumstances.

A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3757-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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