A suspenseful, intriguing, and highly original fantasy tale from a promising new author.

THE JEALOUSY OF JALICE

Bailey’s debut dark-fantasy novel offers a tale of old grudges, forbidden magic, and gruesome monsters.

As the story opens, the Unified Tribes that rule the lands are fractured, and the many different magical Realms of existence, including the Ethereal Realm and the Soul Realm, are no longer accessible to the denizens of the Terrestrial Realm. A tyrannical chief known as the Sachem has enslaved and slaughtered many innocent people in a reign of terror, with a supposed aim of keeping the peace, while his wife, Jalice, lives in cloistered indulgence in his fortress. Some whisper that the chief has been possessed by a dokojin, an otherworldly demon that feeds off pain. Jalice’s royal decoy, Delilee, and the assassin Annilasia have hatched a plot to kidnap Jalice and use magic to install Delilee in her place as part of a plan to uncover the truth behind the Sachem’s rise to power. But Annilasia gets more than she bargained for as she and Jalice are beset by hitmen, bloodthirsty abominations, and hungry dokojin, while also dealing with their bitter distrust of each other. Is Jalice truly the Sachem’s accomplice, and if so, why are there gaps in her memory? And what awaits them in the Black House, where an infernal bargain was struck many years ago? Overall, Bailey’s story, set in a distinctly non-Western fantasy world with an engaging mix of magic, spiritualism, and post-apocalyptic lore, is a tightly paced and exciting adventure. It occasionally succumbs to common pitfalls of high concept fantasy—namely, an overabundance of in-universe terminology and long-winded prose. However, the author manages to organically reveal important details of the world and its inhabitants along the way, while constantly heightening the stakes for his central characters. The book’s scenes of action and eldritch horror are especially well handled, but its greatest strength is Bailey’s commitment to developing the nuanced cast.

A suspenseful, intriguing, and highly original fantasy tale from a promising new author.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73436-161-2

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2020

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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