The indomitable, quick-on-the-draw Lizbeth remains an irresistible heroine, and Harris proves she still has the magic touch.

A LONGER FALL

In the second installment of Harris’ weird Western series set in an alternate former United States (after An Easy Death, 2018), gunslinger/bodyguard for hire Lizbeth “Gunnie” Rose must accompany a mysterious crate to its destination, but things go terribly wrong.

A long train ride east to the country of Dixie isn’t 19-year-old Lizbeth’s idea of a good time, but it is a job, and she needs it, especially since her last job left her with a long recovery and no crew. Her new troupe, the Lucky Crew, seems competent enough, and when Lizbeth spots some suspicious folks on the train, she’s pretty sure they’re about to be tested. A shootout precedes an explosion that engulfs the train. Someone must really want the Lucky Crew’s cargo. Lizbeth has been shot, her crew has been decimated, and the contents of the crate are gone, but she’s still got a job to do. When a blast from Lizbeth’s past—Eli Savarov, a grigori, or Russian wizard—shows up, Lizbeth discovers that he’s in search of whomever hired the Lucky Crew to deliver the crate. Lizbeth agrees to take a job as his bodyguard, and the two, posing as a married couple (it’s only proper) poke around the Louisiana town of Sally for clues that will lead them to the chest. They quickly realize the town is in racial turmoil: Slavery doesn’t technically exist, but it might as well considering the backward attitudes of the townsfolk and their shabby treatment of Sally’s black citizens. It all seems to lead to a powerful family that holds the town in its thrall, and, of course, the explosive contents of that troublesome crate. Lizbeth and Eli spend quite a bit of time on old-fashioned sleuthing (and, delightfully, between the sheets), but the action ratchets up exponentially in the surprising last half. Lizbeth is a no-nonsense, dryly funny narrator, and while this installment lacks a bit of the spark of the first book, it’s still a shoot’em-up, rollicking ride.

The indomitable, quick-on-the-draw Lizbeth remains an irresistible heroine, and Harris proves she still has the magic touch.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9495-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Saga/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Fantasy fans will love this fast-paced adventure, with its complex magic system, thoughtful hero and bold heroine.

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC

From the Shades of Magic series , Vol. 1

A fast-paced fantasy adventure that takes readers into a series of interconnected worlds ruled by magic—or the lack of it.

Long ago, the doors between worlds were open, and anyone with magic could travel from one to the next. Now the doors are closed, and only a chosen few have the power to travel between Grey London, a world without magic, Red London, a world suffused with it, and White London, a world where magic is scarce, coveted and jealously guarded. As for Black London, the city consumed, no one would be so foolish as to risk a trip—not even Kell. Officially, he’s a royal messenger, carrying letters among the rulers of the three Londons. Unofficially, he’s a smuggler who collects artifacts from other worlds. It’s that habit that leads him to accept a dangerous relic, something that shouldn’t exist. And it’s when a wanted Grey London thief named Lila steals the artifact that the real trouble starts—for both of them. Schwab (Vicious, 2013, etc.) creates a memorable world—actually, three memorable worlds—and even more memorable characters. Lila in particular is a winningly unconventional heroine who, as she declares, would “rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” The brisk plot makes this a page-turner that confronts darkness but is never overwhelmed by it.

Fantasy fans will love this fast-paced adventure, with its complex magic system, thoughtful hero and bold heroine.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7645-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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