An author to watch, Buehlman is now two for two in delivering eerie, offbeat novels with admirable literary skill.

BETWEEN TWO FIRES

Cormac McCarthy's The Road meets Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in this frightful medieval epic about an orphan girl with visionary powers in plague-devastated France.

The year is 1348. The conflict between France and England is nothing compared to the all-out war building between good angels and fallen ones for control of heaven (though a scene in which soldiers are massacred by a rainbow of arrows is pretty horrific). Among mortals, only the girl, Delphine, knows of the cataclysm to come. Angels speak to her, issuing warnings—and a command to run. A pack of thieves is about to carry her off and rape her when she is saved by a disgraced knight, Thomas, with whom she teams on a march across the parched landscape. Survivors desperate for food have made donkey a delicacy and don't mind eating human flesh. The few healthy people left lock themselves in, not wanting to risk contact with strangers, no matter how dire the strangers' needs. To venture out at night is suicidal: Horrific forces swirl about, ravaging living forms. Lethal black clouds, tentacled water creatures and assorted monsters are comfortable in the daylight hours as well. The knight and a third fellow journeyer, a priest, have difficulty believing Delphine's visions are real, but with oblivion lurking in every shadow, they don't have any choice but to trust her. The question becomes, can she trust herself? Buehlman, who drew upon his love of Fitzgerald and Hemingway in his acclaimed Southern horror novel, Those Across the River (2011), slips effortlessly into a different kind of literary sensibility, one that doesn't scrimp on earthy humor and lyrical writing in the face of unspeakable horrors. The power of suggestion is the author's strong suit, along with first-rate storytelling talent.

An author to watch, Buehlman is now two for two in delivering eerie, offbeat novels with admirable literary skill.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-937007-86-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ace/Berkley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

GIDEON THE NINTH

From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 1

This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery.

Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition...and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences.

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31319-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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