Solid SF adventure with a reasonable quota of interesting ideas for readers to chew on.

SNARE

In this hefty tome, Kerr (The Shimmering Door, 1996) turns from Celtic-tinged fantasy to sweepingly far-future adventure on an alien world. The plot is built around Jezro Khan, the exiled brother of the corrupt ruler of Kazrajistan, an Islamic society. A former Kazrak cavalry officer named Warkannan and a “sorcerer” named Soutan, a native of the Cantons, where Jezro is in exile, lead an expedition to convince Jezro to overthrow the regime. At the same time, the Chosen (a fanatical Muslim sect whose members act as the ruler’s secret police) have sent an assassin, Zayn, to prevent Jezro’s return. To reach him, both groups must cross the grasslands, a wilderness inhabited by the alien Cha’Meech and by human nomads whose low-tech society centers on horses. Along the way, Zayn attaches himself to Ammadin, a woman who serves as Spirit Rider to a nomadic company headed into the Cantons; as a result of his experience with the nomads, he finds himself beginning to question his mission. Meanwhile, Soutan makes use of high-tech “magic” to become aware of Zayn’s mission, and Jezro’s followers make several attempts to kill the assassin. When Ammadin makes contact with a Cha’Meech woman who convinces her to meet her in the wilderness beyond the Cantons, representatives of all four main societies come into a conflict that’s eventually resolved by a literal deus ex machina who brings about a major reorganization of the planet’s complex political makeup. The various societies are interestingly contrasted, and the world-building is generally convincing if not especially original. While the plot sometimes moves slowly, Kerr keeps the reader guessing at the moral alignment of several major characters and provides a conclusion worth the convoluted path.

Solid SF adventure with a reasonable quota of interesting ideas for readers to chew on.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-89045-1

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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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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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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