Absolutely blonkers; giddiness-inducing for the most open-minded of readers.


From the Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead series , Vol. 1

Family secrets give way to a madcap marathon portal fantasy.

Tasked with cataloging his dead hoarder grandfather’s mansion’s contents, 16-year-old recently orphaned naturalist Jonathan also puzzles over his grandfather’s nonsensical instructions. Strange and dangerous things lead Jonathan to conclude his grandfather was murdered—a conclusion reached too late to prevent school friends Rack and his good-natured, athletic sister, Danny, from arriving to help. Meanwhile, on parallel world Aurora, Aleister Crowley, aided by his grotesque familiar, Wretch, and the head of Napoleon, is the Lord Emperor of the Franco-Germanic Empire, seeking to conquer Prague (with mecha-elephants) and England (by attacking the wall on the land bridge—a wall whose defenders wear cod-head–shaped codpieces—with a doomsday earthworm-dreadnought devised by Jules Verne for use against H.G. Wells). As the mansion has doors between worlds, the Earth gang (with Jonathan theorized to be special) decides to help the Order of the Third Door against Crowley to prevent the war’s reaching Earth. Aurora’s an enthusiastic hodgepodge of antique fantasy elements (talking animals), touches of cosmic horror, clever wordplay, genre deconstruction, and butt humor, all tied together with a just-go-with-it fever-dream logic. Constant viewpoint jumps (including a MacGuffin-turned-narrator) slow down the already meandering, tangent-heavy, complicated (spies spying spies) story’s pace but allow for savoring weirdness until the cliffhanger ending. Jonathan and Danny seem to be White; Jonathan is asexual and Danny is bisexual. Danish Korean adoptee Rack uses a prosthetic leg.

Absolutely blonkers; giddiness-inducing for the most open-minded of readers. (Fantasy. 12-adult)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30886-5

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Prepare yourself for the long haul. This is expansive, emotionally complex, and bound to suck you in.


From the Roots of Chaos series , Vol. 2

Magic, dragons, and prophecy are welcome threads in a fantasy that extols the power of motherhood, friendship, and self-love to change the world.

This prequel to Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree (2019) has a similar scope to that 800-page fantasy, but dragon lore is less important here than the stories of people and events that become catalysts for The Priory's tale. Each chapter is grounded by a cardinal direction, lest you lose your bearings, with the four corners of the world home to central characters whom readers will get to know intimately. In the West lives Glorian, heir to the queendom of Inys. Her rule is based on the sacred Berethnet bloodline, whose power originates from the knight Galian Berethnet's banishing of the Nameless One, a giant fire-breathing wyrm birthed from the world’s core. In the East, Dumai lives on a mountain peak and trains as a godsinger, someone who harbors a human connection to the dragons the East worship as gods. In the South, Tunuva is a warrior of the Priory, a sisterhood that worships the Mother who is seen as the true banisher of the Nameless One. Their beliefs are so different and their societies so distanced that they don't know of the others' existence. And yet, when the balance of nature starts to waver, bringing whispers of new fire-breathing threats like the Nameless One, these women find themselves united by a common cause to save their people and seek truth about the higher powers at war with one another. This story is epic in scope, but its density is the sort that pulls you in. The biggest pull comes from the humanity displayed by the central characters, whose hearts ache for their children and their futures in a world fraught with turmoil. The fire-breathers bring more than destruction in their wake; they also bring a plaguelike sickness that will elicit sharp parallels to the Covid-19 pandemic. The very real struggles these characters face, whether they ride dragons or bear the suffocating rules of monarchy, make this a consuming read. While some fantasy tropes feel like they've only been added to the story's surface, the pages keep turning because of the heart-wrenching reasons that characters are driven to action. The heroes shine in their uniqueness, with diverse family dynamics interwoven throughout and representation ranging from queer lords and warriors to genderfluid alchemists. This prequel stands on its own, but a word of warning to people who have read The Priory: You'll want to reread it in order to benefit from the deeper knowledge of what came before.

Prepare yourself for the long haul. This is expansive, emotionally complex, and bound to suck you in.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-63557-792-1

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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Another gem of a novel from a talented writer.


A sheltered girl must brave the evils of the world to save her family in Parry’s latest fantasy adventure.

Biddy has only ever known the magical island of Hy-Brasil, where she lives in a crumbling castle. Hy-Brasil is hidden by ancient magic, so it’s the perfect home for Biddy and her eccentric guardian, Rowan, a magician who won’t tell Biddy exactly why he needs to hide out on a secret island. Rowan and his familiar, a rabbit spirit named Hutchincroft, have provided Biddy with a wonderful, loving home, but as Biddy nears her 17th birthday she starts to feel some growing pains. Why is Rowan so resistant to letting her go to the mainland? What does Rowan do on his mysterious nightly trips off the island? And is Rowan’s story about Biddy washing up on shore as an infant even true? When Rowan can no longer shield Biddy from the truth about his dangerous enemies. Biddy realizes that in getting her wish to leave Hy-Brasil, she may be in for more than she bargained for. Parry's greatest gift as a fantasy author isn’t her ability to create magic systems that are both easily understandable and also detailed and immersive. Nor is it her knack for settings, as in the delightful and whimsical images of Hy-Brasil. Instead, it is how she takes those worldbuilding skills and uses them in service of deeply felt characters. As Biddy fights to help Rowan battle his enemies, she learns how people and problems are always more complex than they seem but that courage and a good heart will always win the day. What more can you ask for from a coming-of-age story?

Another gem of a novel from a talented writer.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9780316383707

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Redhook/Orbit

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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