A strong, thoughtful, and fast-paced follow-up that bodes well for future volumes.

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JADE WAR

In the second installment of a political fantasy thriller series where “bioenergetic jade” provides magical energy, the conflict of two warlord/organized crime clans has global implications.

In the Hong Kong-like city of Janloon, the Mountain and No Peak clans have announced a public truce while each secretly tries to undermine the other for control of the city and their nation of Kekon, the only source of the jade. As jade smugglers both inside and outside the country threaten the clans’ mutual control over the mineral, political tensions rise between the neighboring nations of Espenia and Ygutan over a rebellion in Shotar, which leads both to seek more jade for their armies. Meanwhile, Hilo, the former Horn (chief enforcer) of the No Peak clan, struggles to master the tactics he needs to fill his late brother’s role as Pillar (clan leader). His sister, Shae, the clan’s Weather Man (chief advisor), has that tactical knowledge but lacks the clan’s complete trust; she’s also trying to juggle her clan responsibilities and her personal life, which includes a quiet romance with a nonclan professor. At the same time, their adopted brother, Anden, embarks on a new, jade-free life in Espenia but still manages to find trouble there, and Hilo’s jade-immune wife, Wen, secretly supports the clan through her own work as a spy. If they are to prevail against the ruthless Ayt Mada, Pillar of the Mountain clan, and the various other domestic and foreign threats, terrible sacrifices will be required, made willingly or not. The first installment, Jade City (2017), leaned rather heavily, albeit effectively, on some tropes and plot points from The Godfather, and it’s pleasing to see that the author has chosen a more independent path this time around. If there’s any thematic link between this book and Godfather II, it’s a common understanding that the outside world has a way of crashing into isolated communities and forcing them to adapt, so it’s best to be on the offensive, as well as a rueful acknowledgment that despite that understanding, relationships with those outside the community might not end well.

A strong, thoughtful, and fast-paced follow-up that bodes well for future volumes.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-44092-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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