A fascinating exploration of how power corrupts and drives a person toward self-betrayal.

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QUEEN OF THE CONQUERED

In a grimly plausible political fantasy–turned–murder mystery, a young woman faces the bloody consequences of her choices.

Centuries ago, the pale-skinned Fjern conquered a group of Caribbean-like islands and enslaved its dark-skinned inhabitants. The islander Sigourney Rose was the sole survivor of the slaughter of her family by Fjern conspirators resentful that her mother, Mirjam, a freed slave married to a wealthy landowner, was invited to join the king’s inner circle of advisers. Resolved to revenge herself and to seize the regency, Sigourney poisons her cousin for his political position and uses her "kraft," magical psychic abilities, to manipulate the failing mind of an orchestrator of the conspiracy into making a match between her and the woman’s son so that she will be of sufficient consequence for the regent to choose her as his successor. But once Sigourney reaches the royal island of Hans Lollik Helle, where the king will make his choice, nothing is as it seems. Someone is murdering the other members of the kongelig, the Fjern ruling nobility, and the king may be nothing more than a ghost or illusion. Will Sigourney survive long enough to achieve her goals? Where other authors might make a woman in Sigourney’s position a freedom fighter, Callender’s adult debut depicts a self-involved woman bent on personal power, with no clear idea of what to do with it beyond gain revenge. For someone who can read minds, Sigourney doesn’t really understand people, or even herself, very well. She desperately wants the respect of the other Fjern even though she knows full well that their violent prejudice against her skin tone means she will never get it. She only ever expresses the most pinched and selfish forms of love yet wants the islanders to love her and understand that she’s acting for their own good even though she actually does nothing for them, issuing orders to her slaves while ignoring them as people, somewhat reluctantly abusing and executing them, and associating with their oppressors. She feels a certain amount of guilt for her actions but not enough to stop her from acting. And despite her resentment at never being treated like an intelligent equal, she continually underestimates her fellow islanders, to her cost. Despite their grotesqueness and near absurdity, her hypocrisy and blind spots are totally realistic.

A fascinating exploration of how power corrupts and drives a person toward self-betrayal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45493-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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