Immensely appealing, intelligent, and great fun.

THE FALL OF THE KINGS

Sequel to 1987’s Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners, a tale set in an imaginary city that Kushner herself described as “not-quite-equal parts of Elizabethan London, 18th-century Paris, a dash of Regency of both, and even a little New York . . . . ” Here, it’s 60 years later, in a Renaissance Europe that’s not quite the historical Europe. Much earlier, the rocky North and fertile South were joined into one country with a King and Queen. Ivy grew out of the hands of some of the Northern King’s 15 wizards when he rode south for the wedding, leading his monstrously uncouth army. Very fanciful stuff, thinks University historian Basil St. Cloud three hundred years later, now that all the kings are long dead and the land kingless. St. Cloud admires kings but the Serpent Chancellor, Lord Arlen, appoints Lord Nicholas Galling to spy on University Northerners who favor installing a new king, drawn from royal blood, over the Council of Lords. The Council has also outlawed all talk of wizards and magic—since magic. . . doesn’t exist? If anyone could find the lost Book of the King’s Wizards, the spells in it might prove upsetting to the Council. When Basil is bedded by his new student Theron Campion, grandson of the scandalous Mad Duke Tremontaine, he finds tattooed ivy leaves entwining Theron’s body, a sign that he’s the son of ancient kings. Not that Theron doesn’t love the bossy painter Ysaud, who has painted a canvas of him modeling both throat-slit Hilary the Stag and his naked murderer—scandalous Hilary slept with deer in his bedroom instead of his wife. Then Basil buys an old trunk holding old manuscripts, including guess what, and Theron, a student of rhetoric, helps read it. Will wizardry return? Theron be king? Are the Serpent Chancellor and Galling closet sweeties?

Immensely appealing, intelligent, and great fun.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2002

ISBN: 0-553-38184-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Spectra/Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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