Such is the allure of an extremely talented writer at the height of her powers.

CROWN OF RENEWAL

From the Paladin's Legacy series , Vol. 5

Final entry (Limits of Power, 2013, etc.) in the Paladin’s Legacy series.

Once again, rather than a monolithic existential threat, multitudinous intrigues and designs move the story forward. Arian, wife of Lyonya’s King Kieri, poisoned by an iynisin (evil elf-mage) blade, languishes, while Kieri, warned by Dragon to release mages trapped in the past, needs to discover his innate Old Human magic. In neighboring Tsaia, iynisin attack and grievously wound King Mikeli’s brother, Camwyn; Dragon is willing to heal Camwyn, but the price is that Mikeli may never see his brother again. Mage powers continue to appear in both nobles and commoners—a development opposed so vehemently by traditionalists that they are prepared to murder children to stamp it out. Jandelir Arcolin finds himself preoccupied with the gnomes who have declared him their prince, their all-encompassing Law and their concern for the Law’s correct application. Mikeli wonders what the iynisin intruders were after and concludes they sought the mysterious sentient regalia that reposes in a box that none save former mercenary Dorrin, Duke Verrakai, may open or even move. The regalia itself orders Dorrin to take the box on a perilous quest to a distant land, a journey that Dorrin herself does not expect to survive. Moon offers convincingly realized characters persuasively shaped by the extraordinary richness, depth and texture of the world they inhabit and the low-key yet knotty problems they must confront. So mesmerizing is the narrative that it’s a sad surprise having to emerge into the mundane world at story’s end. While fully satisfying, this conclusion leaves ample scope for further embellishment or spinoffs: excellent news for all concerned.

Such is the allure of an extremely talented writer at the height of her powers.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53309-8

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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

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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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