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THE PIOUS INSURRECTION

THE REAPING

From the A Grim Sword & Sorcery Tale series

An emotional and remarkably inventive fantasy.

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A pair of children from a religious sect go on a quest as their world tips toward war in Morgenstern’s fantasy series opener.

In the world of Evigonda, four kingdoms vie for resources and power: Yudecca, Borensati, Selador, and Nazarelle. In the waters south of Yudecca, on an island monastery, the monks of Regnaröv magically harness the elements to defend the continent against monstrous, seagoing reptilians called Naga. To satisfy the demands of deities Leviathan and Naamah, a ritual called the Reaping must occur, which requires a seer to “harvest life energy from each nation and bring it to the Shepherd’s Nexus” in the continent’s center. The young seer Bo, who’s sightless but can read emotional auras, has been chosen for the task. She’s accompanied by acolyte Amos, who’s unable to speak; his best friend, Eli, died during a Naga attack and became the first soul collected in a ceremonial dagger for the Reaping. Though escorted for part of their journey by the monk Kohana, the children eventually meet Vyuuri, a wily former monk who renounced his loyalty to Regnaröv. Meanwhile, in Nazarelle, the soldier Lancaster Ben’Shual hopes to win the hand of Princess Winona. After Lancaster loses an eye in battle against Seladorian Templars, King Saul assigns him to gather intelligence on the technologically advanced Ashborn warriors. Over the course of this book, Morgenstern offers a brisk, concept-dense epic that succeeds in keeping its large cast in focus. Fans of grand fantasy series, such as David Farland’s Runelords novels, will be impressed by the abundant cultural details, including each nation’s splinter groups, gods, magic systems, and unique relationships. As the tribal chaos surrounding Amos and Bo increases, the two lonely main characters grow closer. Morgenstern’s main theme—that everyone has within them good and evil—is perfectly illustrated in the gripping finale, which seemingly pits heroes against each other. More darkness is expected in the planned sequel.

An emotional and remarkably inventive fantasy.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 979-8-51-024556-1

Page Count: 229

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE FAMILIAR

Lush, gorgeous, precise language and propulsive plotting sweep readers into a story as intelligent as it is atmospheric.

In 16th-century Madrid, a crypto-Jew with a talent for casting spells tries to steer clear of the Inquisition.

Luzia Cotado, a scullion and an orphan, has secrets to keep: “It was a game she and her mother had played, saying one thing and thinking another, the bits and pieces of Hebrew handed down like chipped plates.” Also handed down are “refranes”—proverbs—in “not quite Spanish, just as Luzia was not quite Spanish.” When Luzia sings the refranes, they take on power. “Aboltar cazal, aboltar mazal” (“A change of scene, a change of fortune”) can mend a torn gown or turn burnt bread into a perfect loaf; “Quien no risica, no rosica” (“Whoever doesn’t laugh, doesn’t bloom”) can summon a riot of foliage in the depths of winter. The Inquisition hangs over the story like Chekhov’s famous gun on the wall. When Luzia’s employer catches her using magic, the ambitions of both mistress and servant catapult her into fame and danger. A new, even more ambitious patron instructs his supernatural servant, Guillén Santángel, to train Luzia for a magical contest. Santángel, not Luzia, is the familiar of the title; he has been tricked into trading his freedom and luck to his master’s family in exchange for something he no longer craves but can’t give up. The novel comes up against an issue common in fantasy fiction: Why don’t the characters just use their magic to solve all their problems? Bardugo has clearly given it some thought, but her solutions aren’t quite convincing, especially toward the end of the book. These small faults would be harder to forgive if she weren’t such a beautiful writer. Part fairy tale, part political thriller, part romance, the novel unfolds like a winter tree bursting into unnatural bloom in response to one of Luzia’s refranes, as she and Santángel learn about power, trust, betrayal, and love.

Lush, gorgeous, precise language and propulsive plotting sweep readers into a story as intelligent as it is atmospheric.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250884251

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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