Desperately needs an annotated list of characters and a detailed glossary distinguishing various tribes and factions. But...

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THE OTHER LANDS

Old wars are re-fought, new alliances and conflicts arise in the middle volume of a fantasy trilogy set in the embattled land that calls itself the Known World.

Acacia (2007) chronicled the clouded history of an empire that delivers some of its children to slavery in “the Other Lands” in exchange for money and a drug that keeps Acacia’s subjects quiescent. King Leodan’s losing battle against multiple enemies forced him to send his four children toward safety in four different destinations. As this volume opens, the king’s eldest daughter Corinn rules as his successor, having dispatched the northern chieftain who invaded Leodan’s palace and (temporarily) won her love. Younger brother Aliver died in battle, but surviving siblings Dariel and Mena have become feared warriors, fighting the transfigured Santoth (exiled prophets who have shape-shifted alarmingly), the itinerant Lothan Aklun (slaves empowered by their takeover of the drug trade) and the opportunistic seagoing brigands of the League of Vessels. This dauntingly complicated and frequently puzzling narrative also includes the stories of such intriguing secondary characters as revolutionary leader Barad the Lesser; Corinn’s Mr. Fixit assassin Delivegu; and an exiled, intuitively all-knowing beauty named Mor, of royal or perhaps even higher lineage. Moving into fantasy after three well received historical novels, Durham (Pride of Carthage, 2005, etc.) handles his many-leveled plot with impressive thoughtfulness; racial stereotyping, exploitation of defenseless populations and tribal enmity are among the subjects whose continued relevance—for the novel’s characters and its readers—becomes increasingly evident. When Corinn, a superbly complex character quite wonderfully drawn, announces that “no more children of the Known Word will be sent to the Other Lands,” it’s an emancipation proclamation that may have come too late to avert what the closing pages suggest could become a global war.

Desperately needs an annotated list of characters and a detailed glossary distinguishing various tribes and factions. But little else is missing from this ambitious work, which boggles the mind and transcends genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-385-52332-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

NINTH HOUSE

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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