Half-explained political dynamics and magical laws mar an otherwise passable fantasy outing.

NOTORIOUS SORCERER

An untrained magician assumes the mantle of unlikely hero.

Siyon makes his living delving into magical planes to harvest rare materials for the alchemists of Bezim, the only city in the world where interplanar travel is possible. After he trades away a phoenix feather to a well-connected young man who promptly disappears, Siyon must find a way to recover the missing boy or face banishment or execution. Meddling with the planes in this way carries the risk of shifting them dangerously out of alignment, which might have set Evans' novel up for an intense climax were it not for a dearth of information about the story's most vital aspects, including magic, local laws, international politics, race, and class. Centuries of esoteric laws and theorems govern alchemy and sorcery, but the novel does not explain how these magical systems function or the ways in which they differ, both in law and in practice. Bezim's biased legal system favors the azatani and oppresses both foreigners and the bravi, but we never learn whether azatani and bravi refer to races or social classes. In fact, azatani seems to mean both a race and a social class, although we're left in the dark regarding how the oft-referenced "tiers" of azatani—with their names all ending in -ani—organize themselves. Furthermore, it is possible to be both azatani and bravi without being mixed-race. That Evans leaves these concepts obfuscated via glaring omissions precludes readers' basic understanding of how Siyon's world works. The novel's most interesting subplots are two romances—one hinted at, one consummated, and both queer—but neither reaches a satisfying conclusion.

Half-explained political dynamics and magical laws mar an otherwise passable fantasy outing.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39803-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A deceptively quiet beginning rockets to a thrilling finish, preparing us for the next volume’s undoubtedly explosive finale.

NONA THE NINTH

The third installment of a necromantic science-fantasy series continues working at puzzles of identity and the meaning of loyalty.

Previously (Gideon the Ninth, 2019; Harrow the Ninth, 2020), sullen but brilliant necromancer Harrowhark consumed the soul of Gideon, her foulmouthed cavalier, to become a Lyctor, a semi-immortal officer in the Emperor Undying’s court. In a desperate attempt to preserve Gideon’s identity, Harrow deliberately erased the other woman from her memories, leaving herself confused to the point of delusion, unable to access her full powers, and vulnerable to enemies both within and without the Emperor’s court. This novel introduces Nona, a sweet but extraordinarily naïve young woman who appears to be in Harrowhark’s body but with Gideon’s golden eyes, lacking both necromantic abilities and any memories prior to six months ago. Nona’s been happy despite her precarious living situation in a war-torn city threatened by the necromantic Houses and their foe, the Blood of Eden. Unfortunately, what fragile peace she has cannot last, and everything depends on recovering Nona’s memories and returning to Harrowhark’s home in the Ninth House, there to finally release the deadly threat lurking in the Locked Tomb. But who is Nona, really: Harrowhark, Gideon, a blend of both young women…or someone else entirely? (The reader will figure it out long before the characters do.) Meanwhile, the Emperor and Harrowhark meet in dreams, where he recounts events of 10,000 years ago, when, as a newly fledged necromancer, his conflict with the corrupt trillionaires who planned to escape the dying Earth and leave the remaining billions to perish led to nuclear apocalypse. It’s pretty gutsy of Muir to write two books in a row about amnesiac characters, particularly when it may very well be the same character experiencing a different form of amnesia in each. This work initially reads like a strange interlude from the series, devoted to Nona’s odd but essentially quotidian routine in the midst of war, riot, and general chaos. But the story gradually gathers speed, and it’s all in service to a deeper plot. It is unfortunate that the demands of that plot mean we’ve gotten a considerably smaller dose of Gideon’s defiantly crude, riotously flouncy behavior in the two books subsequent to the one which bears her name.

A deceptively quiet beginning rockets to a thrilling finish, preparing us for the next volume’s undoubtedly explosive finale.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-25-085411-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Tordotcom

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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