Among the payoffs are plenty of cliffhangers, including one that nicely ushers in the next volume—which fans will await...

READ REVIEW

MAGE'S BLOOD

Sprawling first installment of a promised quartet involving the usual elements of swords and sorcery but with surprising and pleasing twists.

New Zealand–based YA author Hair spends a great deal of time here worldbuilding, and the fantastic geography that he conjures is both captivating and improbable. Not least of its disbelief-suspending features is a bridge that rises from the depths of the sea every dozen years, allowing the power- and wealth-seeking Magi to mount crusades in the land across the water. Naturally, the residents of that land don’t cotton to the incursions. Neither does every resident of the invading power, whose political complexities are both Byzantine and Mandarin. The Moontide Bridge that adjoins Yuros and Antiopia, some reckon, is the chief cause of their world’s miseries. In its sometimes-pedantic explorations of the racial, class and religious differences that separate the two continents, Hair’s novel swerves into J. K. Rowling territory, while in its mystical geography and anthropology, it often recalls Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. By comparison with these two models, Hair often lays on the fantasy-speak a little thickly: “Most of us have greater aptitude at one or more of the four Classes of the gnosis....My element is fire and I am strongest in Thaumaturgy and hermetic-gnosis.” Yet, as the novel unfolds and Hair charts both its physical features and its actors, bearing such resonant names as Antonin Meiros, Belonius Vult, Gurvon Gyle, Ramita Ankesharan and Cymbellea di Regia, it gathers both speed and force. Hair is adept at building characters as well as worlds, and his attention to his female players is welcome in a genre that too often excludes them. The tangles of place names and walk-ons require concentration on the reader’s part, but in the end, the story is satisfying enough to make the effort worthwhile.

Among the payoffs are plenty of cliffhangers, including one that nicely ushers in the next volume—which fans will await eagerly.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62365-014-8

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Jo Fletcher/Quercus

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more