Another trademark romp in the otherworld, and a lot of fun.

THE KING'S BLOOD

From the Dagger and the Coin series , Vol. 2

Marcus Wester and company return to work their magic and mischief among the Firstbloods, Kurtadam and Southlings.

Whether you’re a fantasy buff or not, you have to admire ace storyteller Abraham’s skill at building plausible alternate worlds, a trade much practiced, but not often so well, ever since the days of Tolkien and the Shire. Picking up where The Dragon’s Path (2011) left off, Abraham reintroduces us to his mixed-bag company of heroes and villains, inserting some timely touches in his aoristic universe—for one thing, fiscal troubles that the assembled kings of his European-ish landscape seem disinclined to solve together, and for another, a struggle between the forces of reason and an entrenched priesthood, “Palliako and his Keshet cultists,” as one of the good guys puts it. Or are they good guys? One of the many strengths of Abraham’s storytelling is that he allows a little moral ambiguity to curl around the toes of his characters; the heroes aren’t 100 percent virtuous, while the bad guys sometimes have a few redeeming qualities. Good thing, too, for it’s a mixed-up, violent world in which Cithrin bel Sarcour, “voice of the Medean bank in Porte Oliva,” now finds herself, and a smelly and unsanitary one at that; she’s inclined to appreciate differences of cultural tendency as long as the bottom line isn’t harmed, whereas others are more keenly aware that she is a “half-Cinnae girl in a well-tailored dress,” less so that Cithrin has perforce been playing hanky-panky with the books. Did we say that the bad guys had their good sides? True enough, but there is evil aplenty for Wester and his merry band to battle, even if others are inclined to let such things sort themselves out; as one says, “Bring swords to the border, and a few men’s follies become a tragedy for thousands.” Indeed, and you never can tell what sorts of follies the Haaverkin and the Tralgu and such are going to cook up.

Another trademark romp in the otherworld, and a lot of fun.

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-08077-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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