Recommended for those with an interest in the ancient world.

HAND OF ISIS

Seeress Gull (Black Ships, 2008) is reincarnated hundreds of years after the fall of Troy as Charmian, handmaiden and half-sister to doomed Queen Cleopatra of Egypt.

The daughter of a dead pleasure slave and Pharaoh Ptolemy Auletes, Charmian is dedicated to Cleopatra when both girls are six. Although Charmian and her fellow handmaiden and half sister Iras are both slaves, they are also Cleopatra’s chief confidantes and ministers once she becomes queen. But good government, Charmian’s prophetic visions, clever diplomacy and Cleopatra’s more intimate alliances with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius ultimately avail them little against the crushing power that is Rome. Snatching love and happiness where they can, the three sisters devote themselves to the goddess Isis, and in her service, to preserving what they can of their way of life. With a solid grounding in history, this novel is a far richer work than its predecessor. Although most readers will already be aware of Cleopatra’s sad fate (and will know from page one that Charmian shares it with her mistress), the journey, and the vivid descriptions of life in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria, make this book well worth reading. Moreover, the sympathetic portrayal of Cleopatra as an intelligent and devoted ruler willing to use whatever tools at hand to gain advantages for her people is a welcome and intriguing departure from prior fictional depictions of the Egyptian queen as a decadent nymphomaniac, love-blinded fool or drugged-out opportunist.

Recommended for those with an interest in the ancient world.

Pub Date: March 23, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-06802-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

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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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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