A resilient female protagonist braves the perils of wizardry, ancient cults, and college life.

Lord of the Fallen

THE MALEDORIAN CHRONICLES

A teen girl who dabbles in magic finds herself immersed in a war between kingdoms and the gradual rise of a potentially dangerous cult in Forrester’s (Death Mage, 2015, etc.) YA fantasy novel.

It’s forbidden for Lady Elendria Orensal to study unsanctioned magic, which is reserved for wealthy nobles who can afford the admission fee into a magical order. The 17-year-old and her family of minor nobles moved from the war-ravaged south to Criswall in the northern Kingdom of Mar Thagroth. A first-year college student, Elendria’s amassed some knowledge of magic as well as a blinding-light spell she picked up from a witch back in her homeland, Maren Downs. One night she witnesses a cloaked man murder a young boy and is suddenly worried about her missing pal, Remi, a homeless orphan. Her search takes her to a temple full of atrocities, resulting in a harrowing experience she barely survives. Emerging cultists, who, like the priests from the temple, worship the Lord of the Fallen, Ba’al, threaten the likelihood of peace between Mar Thagroth and the southern kingdom, Jalinfaer. At the same time, Elendria soon realizes other young boys have become murder victims, possibly as some sort of ritual for the cult. She vows to find the killer(s), but a magic-boosting black stone may cause her to lose control. Forrester’s novel thoroughly blends the fantastical and the contemporary. The setting, for starters, is the quintessential faraway land (sorcery and kingdoms) with an indeterminable time frame allowing for modern touches: Elendria walks the campus like a typical college student. There’s a notable class struggle theme that’s fortunately never heavy-handed, showing a clear separation of the city and the slums Elendria traverses looking for Remi. Big reveals come later, involving Elendria’s elemental-magic skills and her ultimate decision to choose an alliance, because pinpointing the villains is far from simple. Elendria persistently displays strength, even when facing seemingly hopeless situations. Supporting characters are equally noteworthy, particularly bestie Lysha, who shares both a love of magic and—fingers crossed—a dorm room next year.

A resilient female protagonist braves the perils of wizardry, ancient cults, and college life.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5398-6836-1

Page Count: 394

Publisher: Amber Muse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some White people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only White avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, White people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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