Grim indeed, yet eloquent and utterly compelling.

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THE COLDEST WAR

Independently intelligible sequel to the dark fantasy Bitter Seeds (2010), something like a cross between the devious, character-driven spy fiction of early John le Carré and the mad science fantasy of the X-Men.

Previously, during World War II, the Nazis developed warriors with devastating psychic powers. To combat them, British warlocks used their inherited lore to summon the Eidolons, irresistible demons beyond time and space, whose price for cooperation is extracted in the blood of innocents. Now, in 1963, after the Soviet Union defeated the Nazis and took over their horrid experiments, their empire stretches from the Pacific to the Atlantic save only for a narrow coastal strip west from Paris—America never entered the war and is still mired in a four-decades-long depression. Gretel and her younger brother Klaus, Nazi products captured by the Soviets and forced to cooperate with their experiments, escape from a prison camp and make their way to England where they insist on contacting former spy chief Raybould Marsh who, beset by personal tragedy, has turned into a belligerent drunk barely holding on to his job as a gardener. Marsh's erstwhile colleague, the aristocratic Will Beauclerk, wracked with guilt over his part in summoning the Eidolons and subsequent slaughter of innocents, has betrayed the whereabouts of England's warlocks to the Soviets, who are quietly assassinating them. It will be Marsh's task to unmask Will's treachery, learn what greater designs the Soviets have and counteract them, and deal with the seemingly untouchable Gretel, a psychic so formidable that she has foreseen all possible futures and is manipulating everybody toward an end only she knows. Despite the jaw-dropping backdrop and oblique plotting, the narrative is driven by character and personal circumstance, the only possible drawback being certain important developments that annoyingly take place offstage.

Grim indeed, yet eloquent and utterly compelling.

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2151-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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