An expansive saga that’s slow to start but ultimately intriguing.

THE WAR FOR ASCENSION

A CRISIS REBORN

Debut author Gennari presents an epic fantasy novel that focuses on a gifted young man who’s destined for legendary greatness.

Areus is a muscular 20-year-old Torian; his people can live for thousands of years, and most generally enjoy their lives. All has not been well for Areus, as he’s been plagued by a dream of a great king in pain, but he’s also a talented athlete who competes in an event like wrestling called Lúkari. His fighting abilities come in handy when he later faces enemies in the realm of the mortals while accompanied by a wise man named Santia, who’s a member of a celestial order called the Assembly of Light. When the two meet, Santia tells the young man that a powerful evil has returned to the world after a long time away and that “There is more to you than you would like to believe.” Meanwhile, in a land called Denkari, a rebellious young woman named Belvara is troubled by her own dreams of terrible anguish; she’s the niece of a senator and longs to know more about her birthparents. When circumstances bring her into contact with Areus, the two realize that they can communicate telepathically—one of many discoveries they encounter in a vast quest to come. Events move slowly in this saga’s initial pages; the first chapter, for instance, provides readers with the backstory of Hydroland, the largest landmass of Aureus’ planet, which seems irrelevant at first but comes into play later on; later, extraneous details regarding Areus’ Lúkari competitions adversely affect the narrative momentum. Although the stage takes time to set, the introduction of compelling creatures will maintain readers’ interest, including brutal monsters called rifas and a helpful shape changer. That said, some descriptions feel lacking; for instance, one cave is guarded by a “monstrous cave troll and his vicious thylacine pets,” but little detail is provided about them. Still, intriguing information is revealed about Areus, and this, coupled with other discoveries—regarding, for example, the dangers of solar flares—will keep readers engaged.

An expansive saga that’s slow to start but ultimately intriguing.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-6454948-0-8

Page Count: 833

Publisher: Star Rise Publications

Review Posted Online: July 7, 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 high-concept adventure that doesn't think its readers are clever enough to get it.

THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES

After graduating from her monster-infested high school, a young witch determined to overcome her inclinations toward dark magic finds that she alone can stave off wizarding society's collapse.

After spending the last four years of her life locked up in the Scholomance—a school carved from interstitial space where mages' children go to hone their craft—Galadriel "El" Higgins returns to the real world heartbroken. Following their run through a gauntlet of monsters in a grisly graduation rite, her fake boyfriend–turned–true love, Orion, shoved her through the Scholomance's magical exit and did not follow. Fearing that Orion has been eaten by a maw-mouth—a creature that hopelessly traps its victims in a painful, never-ending dying process—El sets out to end his suffering forever. Getting back into the fallen Scholomance requires a huge supply of mana, as does killing a maw-mouth, and so El must first journey to the world's most powerful wizard enclaves in search of allies. This globe-trotting adventure quickly turns into a slog, however, as triumphs and tribulations flatten under the weight of exposition and poor pacing. Much of Novik's attention here feels severely misplaced. Rare moments of tension resolve too quickly for readers to feel their impacts, and the novel founders as El continues the infodumping habit previously seen in A Deadly Education (2020) and The Last Graduate (2021), sucking the narrative pacing dry with long-winded explanations that touch on everything from other characters' motives to her own powers. We learn a lot about one interesting character only to have her promptly disappear from the story for good. El's two sexual encounters with a female frenemy serve no purpose in developing either the characters' individual stories or the narrative as a whole. An enemy El assures us is "an evil monster" earns her redemption with little to no explanation, and everything readers already know—from the way El memorized her friends' phone numbers to the purpose and value of mana—is bound to be reiterated again and again.

A high-concept adventure that doesn't think its readers are clever enough to get it.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-15835-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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