An enthralling coming-of-age story that unfolds in a land both strange and recognizable.

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LHOSA

SOJOURNER

In this epic fantasy by the author of The Sword of God (2009), a boy ascends into adulthood in a world tarnished by others’ bigotry and thirst for political power.

The 12-year-old Olei (who eventually uses his full name, Ologrin, instead of that nickname) lives in Halrin’s Spur, a herding village in the land of Lhosa. When hideous creatures with “twisting masses of horn growing from their disfigured heads” suddenly raid the village, the boy survives, but many, including his mother, do not. Under the tutelage of Tobin, a man who makes cheese for trading, Ologrin is shocked by a bladed attack by a woman he later learns is named Thania. “I know what you are,” she cryptically tells him. Years later, as an apprentice priest in the city of Antola, he nearly succumbs to another assault with lethal intent. Ologrin encounters a friendly soul in Vireo, a woman who’s a Polfre, one of the humans who, according to legend, had lived on Lhosa first and wielded magic. Based on Ologrin’s tanj (a knifelike object from his long-ago vanished father) and subtle physical traits, Vireo determines he’s half Polfre and, as an outsider, is a probable threat. This makes it especially challenging when Ologrin is unavoidably embroiled in politics: Can he change Lhosa for the better when powerful men want to kill him? Krause packs this bulky tale with fully developed themes involving topics such as religion and discrimination. Ologrin, for example, whom some call by the Polfre slur, “maleugenate,” has brown skin, unlike the pale-skinned citizens in other cities. The cast of characters, however, is relatively small. The author concentrates more on relationships than on accumulating characters, so he develops Tobin as a convincing paternal figure and allows a delightfully complex romance between Ologrin and Vireo to unfold. Dialogue throughout is sharp and generally contemporary, which is perfectly suited to the largely familiar world and people of an unspecified time. While Krause leaves room for a sequel or even a spinoff, this novel is wholly gratifying as a stand-alone fantasy.

An enthralling coming-of-age story that unfolds in a land both strange and recognizable.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73454-260-8

Page Count: 534

Publisher: Bowker

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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