Fantasy elements aside, this saga is reminiscent of a Rosemary Sutcliff novel in plot, themes, cast and overall tone.

UNDER THE MOUND

Around an eldritch incident recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga, Heinrichs spins a 12th-century coming-of-age tale rich in both political intrigue and supernatural visitations.

Dispatched by his roaring father to join a company gathered by young earl Harald Maddadson, who is out to regain control of Orkney from a usurper, Malcolm Mac Alasdair is cast into a maelstrom of political maneuvering and murky alliances. When part of the expedition is forced by a storm to take refuge in an old barrow, he finds himself engaged as well in a deadly struggle with the tomb’s raging occupant. Though the verbal sparring among Harald’s advisors and positively Shakespearean family (his mother Margaret makes Lady Macbeth look like Mother Teresa) does tend to go on, the author counters with plenty of rousing scenes on wild seas and windy moors. Woven throughout are streams of prophetic visions capped by climactic encounters with Odin and his Wild Hunt. By the end, Malcolm has outgrown his petulance and naïveté, broadened his initially parochial Christian outlook and seen Harald on his way to a long and relatively peaceful reign.

Fantasy elements aside, this saga is reminiscent of a Rosemary Sutcliff novel in plot, themes, cast and overall tone. (Historical fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-897476-62-8

Page Count: 454

Publisher: Simply Read

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles.

A MAP OF DAYS

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 4

The victory of Jacob and his fellow peculiars over the previous episode’s wights and hollowgasts turns out to be only one move in a larger game as Riggs (Tales of the Peculiar, 2016, etc.) shifts the scene to America.

Reading largely as a setup for a new (if not exactly original) story arc, the tale commences just after Jacob’s timely rescue from his decidedly hostile parents. Following aimless visits back to newly liberated Devil’s Acre and perfunctory normalling lessons for his magically talented friends, Jacob eventually sets out on a road trip to find and recruit Noor, a powerful but imperiled young peculiar of Asian Indian ancestry. Along the way he encounters a semilawless patchwork of peculiar gangs, syndicates, and isolated small communities—many at loggerheads, some in the midst of negotiating a tentative alliance with the Ymbryne Council, but all threatened by the shadowy Organization. The by-now-tangled skein of rivalries, romantic troubles, and family issues continues to ravel amid bursts of savage violence and low comedy (“I had never seen an invisible person throw up before,” Jacob writes, “and it was something I won’t soon forget”). A fresh set of found snapshots serves, as before, to add an eldritch atmosphere to each set of incidents. The cast defaults to white but includes several people of color with active roles.

Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles. (Horror/Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3214-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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A strong sense of place and an appealing protagonist cannot overcome outdated stereotypes of Indigenous people.

THE WHALER'S DAUGHTER

In pre–World War I Australia, 12-year-old Savannah Dawson wants to be a whaler like her father.

She knows whaling is in her blood, however, as a girl, she is stuck as a cook’s helper. Given the chance, she would gladly follow in her father’s footsteps even though that is how both her brothers lost their lives. Her mother has also passed away, and her absence is palpable. Through her new friend, Figgie, an Indigenous boy whose real name is Calagun—Savannah renames him after an ineffectual attempt to pronounce it—she learns about Indigenous beliefs positioning orcas as the guardians of the Earth and the need to live in harmony with nature. As she comprehends the balance between whaling and the beasts of the deep, she has increasingly cryptic dreams. Meanwhile, industrialization is encroaching thanks to wealthy American investor Jacob Bittermen, who wants to introduce factory processes to whaling. Savannah, who is White by default, is a well-developed, three-dimensional character who starts off only caring about her own goals but grows through her friendships. Whaling terms and Australian slang add atmosphere and pull readers deeper into the colorful world. Unfortunately, the Indigenous characters feed into tropes of mystical guides. Figgie is not as well rounded as Savannah; his actions support her journey of self-discovery, but apart from that, he does not appear to have a purpose in the story.

A strong sense of place and an appealing protagonist cannot overcome outdated stereotypes of Indigenous people. (list of abbreviations, glossary) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: July 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64603-070-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Fitzroy Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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