Peculiar protagonists in a winding, worthwhile story.


Mordraud, Book One

From author Scalini (Mordraud Book 2, 2015) comes a fantasy novel—the first of four in a translation from Italian—about three brothers in a time of war.

When readers first meet Varno, he’s in the uncomfortable position of being pinned to a tree thanks to an enemy’s lance. Though the blow didn’t kill him, Varno’s end certainly seems near. As a Khartian, Varno admits that his people “love fighting wars,” though his experience has hardly been positive: “He was about to die for nothing, he realised.” After escaping the battlefield, Varno is miraculously nursed back to health by Eglade, an Aelian who has always been taught to despise Khartians. Eglade is, by Varno’s assessment, “gorgeous, yet strange,” and the two develop a relationship beyond convalescence. They learn to love each other as they discuss the differences between their cultures and the state of the ongoing conflict, until a sudden violent encounter forces them to flee together. After years of wandering and struggle, the two are eventually able to start a family, with three boys—Dunwich, Mordraud, and Gwern—born from this unlikely union. What will the world make of these half-Aelian, half-Khartian siblings and their three distinct personalities? Dunwich is eventually sent away to learn Arcane chanting, while Mordraud takes a liking to swordplay, and Gwern proves his capacity for learning. The stage is thus set for an adventure that meanders through the realm of Cambria. Though the story contains its share of combat—as when Dunwich observes a battlefield: “Bits of metal, crumpled shields and broken blades were scattered about”—it is first and foremost about the development of these three young men. The complex worldbuilding is often lengthy on explanations—there is much to be said about the chanting Dunwich studies, for instance—yet the agile storytelling nevertheless avoids many banalities of the genre. Some readers may be less enthralled by the voluminous Cambrian history, e.g., “to secure control, the Empire had had to depose the historic family ruling those lands for generations: the Rinns, who were the oldest and most extensive lineage in the whole of the east.” But readers happy to engage with such passages will find a nuanced exploration of a troubled time.

Peculiar protagonists in a winding, worthwhile story.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-8-89-906900-1

Page Count: 518


Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2015

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.


Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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