A lush, poetic tale that will charm readers.

THE PRINCESS AND THE PEACOCK

From the Birds of Fae series , Vol. 1

In Johnson’s fantasy novella, a man hopes to win the heart of a princess who once gave him hope after a tragedy.

On the isle of Maluhia, Kaipo climbs the Forbidden Mountain. A fall from such a great height could easily kill him, but he makes the climbs due to his love for Princess Mele, whose father, King Ahanu, wants her to marry. Kaipo has terrible burns on his left side and back, which he received after he tried to save his mother from intentional self-immolation. He failed, but while he was convalescing, he received a visit from the princess, whose kindness gave him a reason “to move forward” in life. Climbing with him is his adoptive brother, Rahj, whom Kaipo’s father rescued from slavery. At the top of the mountain, they hope to meet the Fae Queen, Jaya, who grants wishes to those who survive the trek. Kaipo plans to ask for beauty—and specifically, the erasure of his scars—because he believes that Mele “deserves to have a husband as beautiful as she is.” In her garden paradise, Jaya warns the pair that “there is a great difference between beauty that comes from magic and the beauty that is shaped inside the heart”—and she then turns Kaipo into a peacock. At the bottom of the mountain, he and Rahj awake to face Pravin the Great Protector, who might feed Kaipo to his soldiers if the peacock isn’t careful. Johnson’s brief fantasy offers readers a fine lesson in narrative economy, as she brings nothing onstage that doesn't serve the novella’s romance plot. It turns out, for example, that Pravin also wants to wed Mele, and he assumes that their wedding will be swift and uncontested. Fans of satirical fantasy classics, such as William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (1973), will enjoy watching the loutish Pravin lose ground to Kaipo despite the fact that the latter is unable to speak a word. Johnson gracefully intertwines Rahj’s tale with his brother’s, as well. The joyous finale is satisfying, but readers will likely crave more of Johnson’s world.

A lush, poetic tale that will charm readers.

Pub Date: May 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948464-74-1

Page Count: 106

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

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MEXICAN GOTHIC

Moreno-Garcia offers a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, set in 1950s Mexico.

Inquisitive 22-year-old socialite and anthropology enthusiast Noemí Taboada adores beautiful clothes and nights on the town in Mexico City with a bevy of handsome suitors, but her carefree existence is cut short when her father shows her a disturbing letter from her cousin Catalina, who recently married fair-haired and blue-eyed Virgil Doyle, who comes from a prominent English mining family that built their now-dwindling fortune on the backs of Indigenous laborers. Catalina lives in High Place, the Doyle family’s crumbling mansion near the former mining town of El Triunfo. In the letter, Catalina begs for Noemí’s help, claiming that she is “bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin,” and that High Place is “sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment.” Upon Noemí’s arrival at High Place, she’s struck by the Doyle family’s cool reception of her and their unabashed racism. She's alarmed by the once-vibrant Catalina’s listless state and by the enigmatic Virgil and his ancient, leering father, Howard. Nightmares, hallucinations, and phantasmagoric dreams of golden dust and fleshy bodies plague Noemí, and it becomes apparent that the Doyles haven’t left their blood-soaked legacy behind. Luckily, the brave Noemí is no delicate flower, and she’ll need all her wits about her for the battle ahead. Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.

Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-62078-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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