Dragon lovers are the best audience for this fantasy novel with well-established themes.



In this fantasy novel, a young dragon fails an important test but secretly tags along on a mission, only to be captured by humans.

In Avonoa, all young dragons undergo testing in the Krusible, where they must remain silent from sunup to sundown, no matter how the adult dragons provoke them. For young Dak, holding his tongue is a particular challenge; most dragons pass by their second attempt, but Dak has just failed for the fourth time. He has one last chance to test again—in 15 moons, while practicing with dragons who enjoy tormenting him. When Dak’s friends are sent on an intriguing mission to a dragon community in the desert, Dak decides to follow them secretly and throw in his lot with the new group. The mission comes under violent attack, however, and while Dak is able to rescue one friend, others die and one goes missing. Searching for her, Dak is captured by humans; he then faces the very real test of remaining silent (thus hiding dragon intelligence) while being tortured and potentially killed. Fairies, centaurs, banshees, and a prophecy about the one dragon who can unite dragons and humans all play a part. In her debut novel, Collotzi writes a well-paced but familiar novel, with many predictable fantasy elements: the quasi-medieval setting; the young hero—subject of a prophecy—who must be tested; the heroic journey; supernatural helpers; trials, including rescuing a beautiful young female; and so forth. The beginning section reads like many a YA novel in which upperclassmen bully the younger kids and grown-ups just don’t understand. Some lore is offered, most notably the magic (or “majik”) Five Swords of Avonoa. More interesting is the dragon’s-eye perspective on humanity: Dak “could smell the stink of the fluids draining from human skin; ‘sweat,’ they called it, or so he’d heard. Humans were filthy.” One human, the prince’s half sister Anna, has sympathy for dragons; the story seems to call for rapprochement, but that’s unresolved, perhaps to leave room for sequels.

Dragon lovers are the best audience for this fantasy novel with well-established themes.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499758535

Page Count: 300

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.


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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