The lackluster conclusion to a trilogy that might have succeeded better as a single, heavily edited volume.

MOTHER OF ALL

The third and final volume set in a high-fantasy world where women reign.

In The Women’s War (2019), a discarded queen casts a spell that lets women decide when and if they have children. By the end of Queen of the Unwanted (2020), a plot to reverse the Blessing—or, as the men call it, the Curse—that set the first book in motion leaves that spell unchanged while seriously damaging the source of all magic in the kingdom of Aaltah. Fans of the first two novels will likely be satisfied with this concluding volume. Good is rewarded. Evil is punished. And the trilogy ends on a hopeful note that delivers on the feminist-lite promise with which the series began. As was the case in the first two installments, the emphasis here is on interpersonal relationships, palace intrigue, and political maneuvering among royals. Readers heavily invested in, for example, Ellin’s marriage to Zarsha will get to spend plenty of time listening to them flirt and strategize over dinners in her private quarters. Readers more interested in action will likely conclude that Glass lingers over phenomena such as late-night pastries a bit more than is necessary. This would perhaps be less notable if there wasn’t a striking sameness to all these scenes. There are, evidently, a lot of royal banquets in Ellin’s world, and each time she is forced to endure one we are reminded that they are long and tedious and that a private meal with her husband is a luxury. While she enjoys this luxury, she and Zarsha have conversations into which the author weaves in backstory she’s already shared at least a few times. And this is the model that Glass uses for the many, many, many characters in this novel: Reintroduce the characters in the scene, show them doing something they’ve done several times before, and maybe inject one new detail that nudges the plot forward. There are exceptions to this rule, but not many, and the end result is a story that runs more than 1,800 pages across the whole series and still feels very small.

The lackluster conclusion to a trilogy that might have succeeded better as a single, heavily edited volume.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-61842-3

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A deceptively quiet beginning rockets to a thrilling finish, preparing us for the next volume’s undoubtedly explosive finale.

NONA THE NINTH

The third installment of a necromantic science-fantasy series continues working at puzzles of identity and the meaning of loyalty.

Previously (Gideon the Ninth, 2019; Harrow the Ninth, 2020), sullen but brilliant necromancer Harrowhark consumed the soul of Gideon, her foulmouthed cavalier, to become a Lyctor, a semi-immortal officer in the Emperor Undying’s court. In a desperate attempt to preserve Gideon’s identity, Harrow deliberately erased the other woman from her memories, leaving herself confused to the point of delusion, unable to access her full powers, and vulnerable to enemies both within and without the Emperor’s court. This novel introduces Nona, a sweet but extraordinarily naïve young woman who appears to be in Harrowhark’s body but with Gideon’s golden eyes, lacking both necromantic abilities and any memories prior to six months ago. Nona’s been happy despite her precarious living situation in a war-torn city threatened by the necromantic Houses and their foe, the Blood of Eden. Unfortunately, what fragile peace she has cannot last, and everything depends on recovering Nona’s memories and returning to Harrowhark’s home in the Ninth House, there to finally release the deadly threat lurking in the Locked Tomb. But who is Nona, really: Harrowhark, Gideon, a blend of both young women…or someone else entirely? (The reader will figure it out long before the characters do.) Meanwhile, the Emperor and Harrowhark meet in dreams, where he recounts events of 10,000 years ago, when, as a newly fledged necromancer, his conflict with the corrupt trillionaires who planned to escape the dying Earth and leave the remaining billions to perish led to nuclear apocalypse. It’s pretty gutsy of Muir to write two books in a row about amnesiac characters, particularly when it may very well be the same character experiencing a different form of amnesia in each. This work initially reads like a strange interlude from the series, devoted to Nona’s odd but essentially quotidian routine in the midst of war, riot, and general chaos. But the story gradually gathers speed, and it’s all in service to a deeper plot. It is unfortunate that the demands of that plot mean we’ve gotten a considerably smaller dose of Gideon’s defiantly crude, riotously flouncy behavior in the two books subsequent to the one which bears her name.

A deceptively quiet beginning rockets to a thrilling finish, preparing us for the next volume’s undoubtedly explosive finale.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-25-085411-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Tordotcom

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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