BRIAN NINE

In DeLue’s debut, teenagers Brian Nine and Will Star are onboard a spaceship when a bolt of lightning causes an accidental launch and the subsequent discovery of a new, inhabited planet.

Brian Nine and Will Star are the David and Goliath of this narrative—with one caveat: Brian, the diminutive child genius, and Will, the star football running back, are best friends. The story takes off, literally, when lightning strikes the Jupiter Manned Explorer, launching the duo through space, light-years away from home, and straight for a sun. Brian and Will narrowly veer away from solar immolation and subsequently find themselves hovering above a seemingly inhabited planet. DeLue creatively plays off his leads’ brains-and-brawn dichotomy, often resulting in comedic sequences. His full world-building repertoire—including a fluid writing style, dialogue delivery and memorable characterizations—is on full display in his portrayal of life on Carpella, a planet ruled by the ruthless, big-brother like Chimera. The theme of the novel takes a distinct shift from space travel to the injustices exacted unto the Hillonan, a pre-industrial human species that were subjected to a life of slavery by the Chimera. Brian’s fearful nature constantly clashes with the absolute ferocity and fearlessness of Will. This conflict is never more evident than when Brian and Will stumble upon RiAnna and her brothers, the valiant Rocco and master swordsman Fortis. The boys are hailed as saviors, their arrival seen as part of a prophecy that will lead to Hillonan freedom, but Brian wishes avoid the danger and return to the safety of the ship while Will feels that they have a responsibility to the Hillonan—and the beautiful RiAnna. On the cusp of revolution, the Hillonan, as well as Brian and Will, are put to the ultimate test as themes of trust, glory, heroism and sacrifice consume the narrative. DeLue proves to be a wizard of his craft as he builds Carpella into a world imbued with natural human emotion, savory plotlines, memorable characters, history-changing situations, a fight for freedom and everlasting glory in this epic page-turner.    

 

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1468047837

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Oholla

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2012

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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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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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