THE DRAGONSTONE

A fantasy novel set in McKiernan's ``Mithgar,'' very much of a piece with the others in this popular series (The Voyage of the Fox Rider, 1993, etc). The one at hand is a generic adventure that might come straight from a role-playing game, right down to the opening scene, where our intrepid heroines Lady Arin and Aiko (an elf and a female samurai) enter a disreputable tavern in search of a one-eyed man, in fulfillment of an obscure prophecy. They end up with not one but two candidates: the local drunk, Alos, and a recently wounded warrior, Egil. Lacking grounds to choose between the two, Lady Arin decides to bring both along on her quest. We are then treated to a long flashback detailing the prophecy and the nature of the mission, on which, as usual, the Fate of the World depends. A mysterious talisman, entrusted to the order of Mages by the dragons of the world, has disappeared, and the elf and her companions are charged with finding it. So off they go into an episodic plot full of trolls, bards, mages, battles, escapes, a raging maelstrom, and, yes, dragons—adding new members to the company and learning more about the meaning of the prophecy along the way. The narrative too often resembles the random encounters generated by gaming dice, with just enough twists to stave off utter boredom. It doesn't help that some of the characters speak in a pastiche of Elizabethan English, others in stereotyped low rustic, still others in featureless modern dialect. McKiernan's bestseller status shows that there's an audience for this sort of work, and they will undoubtedly flock to his latest. But there is little to suggest that the author has grown in either craft or vision since his earliest attempts at ersatz Tolkien. Fresh fodder for the addicted; others can safely skip it.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-451-45560-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: ROC/Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

THE NIGHT CIRCUS

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

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

more