A jovial, action-oriented tale that has much to say about modern life in the United States.




This fantasy series starter tells of a band of heroes trying to prevent the return of a vanquished deity.

The orphan Aleister is the most talented student of magic in the kingdom of Mystas. One day, as the High Council of Wizardry upbraids him for destroying a valuable golem, Princess Silveron of Lamoria appears for a visit. After the council privately meets with Silveron, they tell Aleister that his punishment is to return with her and serve under King Aldon. Aleister’s roommate, Brayden, shares the rumor that the royal adviser, Delmar, may be manipulating the king. In the Lamorian capital of Boerune, Aleister joins a mission sparked by a letter from the powerful—yet supposedly mythical—Chronomancer. Alongside Cameron, a “fallen paladin of Alhaszi”; Lady Ardath, a Samidin priestess; and Droma, a Moravian worshiper of lawlessness, Aleister must find four missing pieces of the god Rael. Speed is essential because other adventurers also hunt for the pieces, hoping that the reassembled Rael will reward them with power. As Cameron and Droma explain, Rael will eliminate all other gods upon his return—and those gods comprise the Shimmering, a force field that currently protects the various kingdoms of Zarethea from one another. Aleister and his band thus plan to destroy the artifacts, lest the world plunge into war. Meadows mixes traditional fantasy elements, such as monsters and spellcasting, with politics in this series opener. Alethea, a traveling lute player who isn’t quite what she seems, stars in a framing sequence that depicts Zarethea as a world on the edge of chaos. Each hero represents an outlook that’s typical of their kingdom and deity; Droma, for example, is a priest of Xansees, the god of Freedom, while Cameron’s Alhaszi is the god of Order. Meadows offers pointed, if on-the-nose, critiques of American politics in lines such as “The government is divided among elected officials from one of two parties; all more interested in furtherin’ their own personal agendas...than actually helpin’ people.” Overall, the tone is light until the heroes come together in the final third of the novel, battling in the strange city of Cockaigne. A closing revelation about the lute player will guide readers toward the planned second volume.

A jovial, action-oriented tale that has much to say about modern life in the United States.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-67189-389-4

Page Count: 217

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2020

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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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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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