Readers in search of complete originality could skip this journey, but they’ll miss Blackhurst’s smooth prose in an...

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DEFENDERS OF RADES

In Blackhurst’s debut, love, treachery and adventure await the questing band of heroes responsible for saving their planet in this science-fiction tale dressed in fantasy garbs.

Mass destruction looms on the horizon for the world of Rades. Hedron, a mystic obsessed with forbidden magic, learns of a secret weapon with the power to obliterate large populations in a single strike. The weapon, though, is not magic—it’s science. When humans first came to Rades centuries ago, they brought enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet. With the weapons lost, Rades became a sword-and-sorcery world controlled by mystics and kings, but Hedron’s discovery threatens that existence. Ghyle, another powerful mystic and Hedron’s former master, must assemble a band of skilled adventurers to stop Hedron’s plans. At first glance, these heroes seem unoriginal—any reader remotely familiar with Tolkien’s classic high-fantasy series will likely note undeniable similarities between Middle Earth’s famous adventurers and many of Blackhurst’s: two friends known for causing mischief; a dutiful soldier with a dark cloud hanging above him; a short, “almost dwarfish” man with a gruff attitude but a heart of gold. Delph, by far, has the most recognizable features. As prince of the Endemi, the native people of Rades, he possesses superior senses and agility, pointed ears, long blonde hair and immense skill with a bow and arrow. But despite their unoriginal basic character stats, each adventurer quickly develops his own distinct personality. Moreover, the character Vitora stands on her own from the start—without her, the novel couldn’t get very far. The mysteries surrounding Vitora’s origin and her developing love for a certain Endemi prince steal attention away from the underlying save-the-planet plot, but rather than weighing down the adventure, their budding relationship strengthens it and blushes with charm.

Readers in search of complete originality could skip this journey, but they’ll miss Blackhurst’s smooth prose in an engaging, easy-to-follow plot driven by highly accessible characters.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463798116

Page Count: 344

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2012

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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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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some white people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only white avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, white people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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