by Dave Duncan ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1992
Book one of a projected four-part series, A Handful of Men, which itself follows Duncan's previous paperback series, A Man of His Word: lively, ingenious, disarming fantasy set in a well- realized land of sorcerers, gods, and numerous contending human varieties (``imps,'' ``fauns,'' ``elves,'' etc.). Now, at the end of the third millennium, the compact that prevented the world's four supreme warlocks from meddling in human affairs is breaking down. In the city of Hub, the old Emperor Emshandar stubbornly refuses to die, while heir prince Shandie and his rakish, self-serving assistant Ylo are preoccupied with the incessant military threats to the empire, many stirred up by sorcery. Elsewhere, King Rap of Krasnegar, once a sorcerer of godlike power, suspects his son has acquired sorcerous powers, is told by a god that one of his children will die, and realizes that the world-order is about to change for the worse. For the first time in a thousand years, the mysterious pixies intervene in human affairs. Finally, as old Emshandar dies, the sorcerers' compact dissolves: an insane dwarf sorcerer makes a bid for supreme power; Shandie—with a few loyal companions, Rap, and Raspnex the dwarf warlock—is driven forth from his palace, one step ahead of total disaster. Deftly woven and set forth with a refreshingly unpretentious clarity and directness: imagine David Eddings rewritten by Kate Wilhelm. Grab this one in the fervent hope that Duncan will maintain the same high standard throughout.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992
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by Samantha Shannon ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 26, 2019
A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.
No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.
Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019
Page Count: 848
Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019
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by Erin Morgenstern ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 13, 2011
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
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011
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