A must for existing fans, while being easily accessible to newcomers.

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GRAIL OF THE SUMMER STARS

Third of Warrington’s related but independently intelligible aliens-among-us Aetherial Tales fantasies (Midsummer Night, 2010, etc.).

Thirty thousand years ago, the Aetherials, serially immortal, pure-energy beings, fled their home and took up residence, some in human form, on Earth. Previously, Mist, a human-formed Aetherial, was murdered by his duplicitous brother, Rufus, who, thousands of years ago, destroyed the Aetherial city of Azantios. Reborn Mist has few of his memories, human or Aetherial, but knows that he must find Rufus—and kill him. Meanwhile, Birmingham art gallery curator and talented designer Stevie Silverwood receives an unsolicited visionary triptych from old college flame Daniel Manifold. The triptych, called “Aurata’s Promise,” vividly and vigorously depicts a ruined palace, a scarlet-haired goddess and a city in flames. It bears a message to Stevie: “The world needs to see this.” But, arresting though the artwork is, why? Daniel, she discovers, has vanished from his London studio. Mist, recalling something of who and what he is, follows the clues to Birmingham. He recognizes not only the scenes in the triptych, but the people too; only the title remains baffling. But with his rusty human attributes, when he tries to talk to Stevie, she recoils. Then, one night in the gallery, an eerie presence manifests itself, cracks Stevie over the head and vanishes with the artwork. With no other choice, Mist must make another attempt to reassure Stevie, since he will need her help in tracking down Daniel, the triptych and Rufus—whatever the latter is planning, it definitely won’t be good. A classy, beautifully rendered tale that persuasively builds from low-key beginnings into a complex enterprise with real heft, a rich back story and characters that grow with the narrative.

A must for existing fans, while being easily accessible to newcomers.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7653-1871-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

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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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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