Series fans will want to investigate, but the gloss is definitely off.

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A PLUNDER OF SOULS

Third in the series (Thieves’ Quarry, 2013, etc.) about magic (“conjuring”) in the turbulent, dangerous pre-Revolutionary Boston of 1769.

One-time sailor and convict, now thieftaker, Ethan Kaille uses conjuring—a practice many consider to be witchcraft, punishable by burning—to help him track down stolen goods for reward while fending off his archrival Sephira Pryce and her gang of thugs. Despite a smallpox epidemic, British redcoats still occupy the city. Samuel Adams and his revolutionaries continue their activities and again attempt to recruit Ethan, though that subplot advances no further. Church ministers ask Ethan to investigate a series of bizarre grave desecrations involving the theft of body parts and snippets of clothing and the marking of the corpses with ritualistic designs. At first suspecting body-snatchers, Ethan soon learns that the victims are reappearing as horribly disfigured ghosts, incurring the fear and mistrust of their families. On top of that, Ethan's spells are no longer reliable. Evidently, a powerful conjurer is at work, and it doesn’t take long for Ethan to discover his opponent’s identity since the two of them clashed in the past. But what does the hostile conjurer want, and how is he causing spells to weaken? Ethan may need to enlist the help of the city’s other conjurers—his friend Mariz, who unfortunately takes his orders from Sephira; Janna Windcatcher, an old and experienced herbalist; and Gavin Black, who’s lost his powers altogether and refuses to become involved. Once again, the historical verisimilitude and atmosphere are major advantages, along with the Latin spellcasting and rather more contemporary gumshoe-noir tone. Given these promising ingredients, however, Jackson’s attempt to weave an original plot with depth and allure just fizzles.

Series fans will want to investigate, but the gloss is definitely off.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3818-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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