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BLOOD OF THE FOUR

A nicely self-contained and kinetic excursion into political fantasy.

A once-strong kingdom is torn by power struggles in this one-volume epic.

In several senses, the city of Lartha, capital of the Kingdom of Quandis, is founded on the Four, four ancient sorcerers-turned-gods. Quandis’ rulers claim to be descended from the Four, and the most senior priests of the Temple of Four, known as the High Order, are said to perform magic by drawing on the power of the Four, who are allegedly buried beneath the Temple. The threat to that foundation begins when Queen Lysandra unlawfully attempts to gain control over magic herself but is defeated by her drug addiction and inability to master the discipline that magic requires. Her ruthlessly ambitious middle child, Princess Phela, had initially planned to seize the throne and rule through the information she’s gathered by creeping through the palace’s hidden passages. But now her plots have a wider scope: She wants to master magic for herself and make her rule a divine one. As Quandis shudders underneath her tyranny and the priesthood suffers a schism, a few gather to oppose the new queen: Demos, an unfairly disgraced and enslaved baron’s son; Blane, a young man of the Bajuman, the despised slave caste, who joined the priesthood to seek his own access to magic; his disguised sister, Adm. Daria Hallarte; and Phela’s underestimated younger sister, Princess Myrinne. In a genre overcrowded by ever expanding series, this book demonstrates that there is plenty of room for action and intrigue in a stand-alone. There are some fairly graphic and brutal mutilations and deaths, but that darkness is balanced against sympathetic, and in some cases even pure-hearted, characters. The worldbuilding is fairly solid even if it would’ve been nice to understand more about how the priests wielded magic without it carving out their insides.

A nicely self-contained and kinetic excursion into political fantasy.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-264138-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE DARK FOREST

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 2

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Second part of an alien-contact trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, 2014) from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In the previous book, the inhabitants of Trisolaris, a planet with three suns, discovered that their planet was doomed and that Earth offered a suitable refuge. So, determined to capture Earth and exterminate humanity, the Trisolarans embarked on a 400-year-long interstellar voyage and also sent sophons (enormously sophisticated computers constructed inside the curled-up dimensions of fundamental particles) to spy on humanity and impose an unbreakable block on scientific advance. On Earth, the Earth-Trisolaris Organization formed to help the invaders, despite knowing the inevitable outcome. Humanity’s lone advantage is that Trisolarans are incapable of lying or dissimulation and so cannot understand deceit or subterfuge. This time, with the Trisolarans a few years into their voyage, physicist Ye Wenjie (whose reminiscences drove much of the action in the last book) visits astronomer-turned-sociologist Luo Ji, urging him to develop her ideas on cosmic sociology. The Planetary Defense Council, meanwhile, in order to combat the powerful escapist movement (they want to build starships and flee so that at least some humans will survive), announces the Wallfacer Project. Four selected individuals will be accorded the power to command any resource in order to develop plans to defend Earth, while the details will remain hidden in the thoughts of each Wallfacer, where even the sophons can't reach. To combat this, the ETO creates Wallbreakers, dedicated to deducing and thwarting the plans of the Wallfacers. The chosen Wallfacers are soldier Frederick Tyler, diplomat Manuel Rey Diaz, neuroscientist Bill Hines, and—Luo Ji. Luo has no idea why he was chosen, but, nonetheless, the Trisolarans seem determined to kill him. The plot’s development centers on Liu’s dark and rather gloomy but highly persuasive philosophy, with dazzling ideas and an unsettling, nonlinear, almost nonnarrative structure that demands patience but offers huge rewards.

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7708-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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