A bonkers fantasy that retains a sweetly human center.

THE DREAM AND THE MUSE

In this fantasy adventure, a young woman explores her true potential while aiding a thief with otherworldly powers.

Madarena Rua, who is “young enough to be tried as a juvenile,” can’t sleep. Despite her father’s snoring, she hears flower pots breaking in the garden. From the doorway, she sees what must be a cat—yet it’s walking on hind legs. She chases it into the bushes only to discover that her quarry is a small, bald man. His name is Apophax, and he seems grateful for help getting out of the bushes. Madarena assumes she’s dreaming. When Apophax asks where a nearby cemetery is, she walks him there. He lends her his coat of hedgehog quills to keep her warm. Even more strangely, he then begins to fade away into the moonlight. As she tries to remove the coat, a creature that looks like a living statue of Anubis approaches. It says: “Apophax. You have broken the laws of Triskadeka Fair.” The dog-headed enforcer then takes her up a stairway of light to a court that’s bound to find her guilty. So begins Madarena’s entanglement with the trickster Apophax, who has a plan to steal the Aoede statuette from the Night Mayor of Triskadeka Fair. Once the Moirai Sisters Clothiers dresses Madarena in “Potential,” her real adventure kicks into gear. Burnett harbors a deep love for the absurd, using his imaginative skills to the hilt, as did L. Frank Baum in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Madarena’s ability to drive her own story begins when she’s in prison and draws a face in chalk on the floor. She then convinces the talking cell to release her. Such unexpected cleverness continues to gush like a geyser as the tale proceeds. The author’s appealing hero loves the dictionary and has a “deep fear of ennui,” which produces lots of wordplay. The Thanatons, for example—named after the Greek god of death—are a race of monsters that includes zombies and wights. Trying to find the person or thing that is named Aoede gives emotional stakes to a narrative that might have easily drowned in silliness. Madarena’s hatred of boredom could provide fuel for a sequel exploring the “quaquaverse.”

A bonkers fantasy that retains a sweetly human center.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7346642-2-5

Page Count: 226

Publisher: South Window Press

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2021

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A gripping revenge story with enough twists to avoid becoming formulaic.

LORE

To get revenge for her family’s murder seven years ago, Lore must reenter a deadly contest from her past.

Leaving the conflict of gods and their hunters behind, Lore thought she had forged a new life. However, the Agon has begun again and brought with it an injured Athena, who promises her revenge on the one who ordered her family killed—in exchange for an oath binding their fates together. Lore must hunt down the god once known as Aristos Kadmou, with the catch that she only has eight days. Also, failure means the deaths of both Lore and Athena. Depictions of graphic violence and discussions of sexual assault are frequent, creating a tale as violent and unforgiving as its source material, albeit narrated through a feminist lens. Much like the heroes of ancient epics, Lore is a morally ambiguous but ultimately likable character, struggling to eliminate the monsters of her world while not falling into the brutality of her youth. She is contrasted with the idealistic Castor, her childhood friend and love interest, with whom she has plenty of chemistry. Bracken builds a rich world around a skeleton of ancient Greek mythology that is perfect to read on a dull weekend and sure to delight readers. Most main characters are cued as White; there are two men of color, both gay.

A gripping revenge story with enough twists to avoid becoming formulaic. (cast of characters) (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7820-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Weird and haunting and excellent.

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PIRANESI

The much-anticipated second novel from the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004).

The narrator of this novel answers to the name “Piranesi” even though he suspects that it's not his name. This name was chosen for him by the Other, the only living person Piranesi has encountered during his extensive explorations of the House. Readers who recognize Piranesi as the name of an Italian artist known for his etchings of Roman ruins and imaginary prisons might recognize this as a cruel joke that the Other enjoys at the expense of the novel’s protagonist. It is that, but the name is also a helpful clue for readers trying to situate themselves in the world Clarke has created. The character known as Piranesi lives within a Classical structure of endless, inescapable halls occasionally inundated by the sea. These halls are inhabited by statues that seem to be allegories—a woman carrying a beehive; a dog-fox teaching two squirrels and two satyrs; two children laughing, one of them carrying a flute—but the meaning of these images is opaque. Piranesi is happy to let the statues simply be. With her second novel, Clarke invokes tropes that have fueled a century of surrealist and fantasy fiction as well as movies, television series, and even video games. At the foundation of this story is an idea at least as old as Chaucer: Our world was once filled with magic, but the magic has drained away. Clarke imagines where all that magic goes when it leaves our world and what it would be like to be trapped in that place. Piranesi is a naif, and there’s much that readers understand before he does. But readers who accompany him as he learns to understand himself will see magic returning to our world.

Weird and haunting and excellent.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63557-563-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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