The open-ended nature of the ending suggests that the clan war is not yet over; it’ll be interesting to see what course Lee...

JADE CITY

Two clans fueled by the magical power of jade battle for control of an analog of mid-20th-century Hong Kong.

Clan soldiers have a specific genetic affinity for jade not shared by most outsiders, which grants them strength and shielding, among other magical powers. Kaul Sen, the former Pillar (head) of the No Peak clan, has retired, and the new Pillar, Kaul Lan, doesn’t quite inspire the fear and loyalty garnered by his legendary grandfather or his late war hero father. His younger brother, Kaul Hilo, is an effective Horn (chief enforcer), but he’s also rash and impulsive. Sensing weakness in her rival, Ayt Madashi, the ruthless Pillar of the Mountain clan, begins a campaign to destroy No Peak and take total control of the island nation of Kekon. The setting suggests that this crime-thriller/fantasy might find inspiration in history and fiction about the triads, and perhaps it does, but it also clearly leans heavily on elements drawn from The Godfather. Some examples (beyond the general plot of crime families battling for supremacy): an adoptive member of the Kaul family is kidnapped by the Mountain to serve as intermediary; the Mountain wants to sell drugs and initially seeks No Peak’s help with the business; the character of Hilo bears some similarity to Sonny Corleone, while the third Kaul grandchild, Shae, traces part of the path of Michael Corleone (she’s spent years outside the clan pursuing her own interests but her loyalties drag her back when tragedy strikes). Despite those beats, Lee's (Exo, 2017, etc.) novel has its own story to tell; an intriguing confluence of history, culture, and biology shapes both the characters and their fates.

The open-ended nature of the ending suggests that the clan war is not yet over; it’ll be interesting to see what course Lee charts next.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-44086-8

Page Count: 600

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Entertaining, though not in the league of J.K. Rowling—or even Anne Rice. But please, people: no more vamps and wizards, OK?

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES

From the All Souls Trilogy series , Vol. 1

Harry Potter meets Lestat de Lioncourt. Throw in a time machine, and you’ve got just about everything you need for a full-kit fantasy.

The protagonist is a witch. Her beau is a vampire. If you accept the argument that we’ve seen entirely too many of both kinds of characters in contemporary fiction, then you’re not alone. Yet, though Harkness seems to be arriving very late to a party that one hopes will soon break up, her debut novel has its merits; she writes well, for one thing, and, as a historian at the University of Southern California, she has a scholarly bent that plays out effectively here. Indeed, her tale opens in a library—and not just any library, but the Bodleian at Oxford, pride of England and the world. Diana Bishop is both tenured scholar and witch, and when her book-fetcher hauls up a medieval treatise on alchemy with “a faint, iridescent shimmer that seemed to be escaping from between the pages,” she knows what to do with it. Unfortunately, the library is crammed with other witches, some of malevolent intent, and Diana soon finds that books can be dangerous propositions. She’s a bit of a geek, and not shy of bragging, either, as when she trumpets the fact that she has “a prodigious, photographic memory” and could read and write before any of the other children of the coven could. Yet she blossoms, as befits a bodice-ripper no matter how learned, once neckbiter and renowned geneticist Matthew Clairmont enters the scene. He’s a smoothy, that one, “used to being the only active participant in a conversation,” smart and goal-oriented, and a valuable ally in the great mantomachy that follows—and besides, he’s a pretty good kisser, too. “It’s a vampire thing,” he modestly avers.

Entertaining, though not in the league of J.K. Rowling—or even Anne Rice. But please, people: no more vamps and wizards, OK?

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02241-0

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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