by Ken Liu ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 2, 2021
This is a shelf-bending fantasy masterwork: as good as it gets.
The penultimate installment of Liu’s Dandelion Dynasty quartet—after The Wall of Storms (2016)—continues the grand-scale narrative set in the vast fantasy archipelago of Dara as two factions battle for control of the islands.
With the Lyucu invasion and occupation of Dara accomplished—and parties on both sides attempting to maneuver a peaceful path forward—the inhabitants of the islands find life increasingly difficult as Lyucu hard-liners, knowing that massive reinforcements are on the way, push for a world where the warriorlike Lyucu rule supreme and all others are essentially slaves. As the tensions rise, Princess Théra of Dara—daughter of Empress Jia—forsakes the throne to embark on a quest to the Lyucu stronghold of Ukyu-Gondé, trying to find a way to save her country and her subjugated people. But as years pass and Théra falls in love, weds native leader Takval, and has children, the question of what her country is and who her people are becomes complicated. Juggling dozens of main characters and multiple plotlines, Liu manages to keep the momentum brisk and the tension consistently high in this 1,000-plus-page novel. But the real genius here is the fusion of extraordinarily deep worldbuilding with profound (and timely) themes, which include cultural assimilation, identity, intolerance, and more. An extended sequence describing a contest between two popular restaurants battling for bragging rights, for example, is a master class in not only sensory description, but also allegory, as the sequence brilliantly illustrates larger themes explored in the saga—one owner has all the resources while the other must take advantage of ingenuity and innovative thinking to succeed. But ultimately, it’s Liu’s poetic style that makes this book so memorable: “We are embedded in strands of love and hatred, a web that glows in the sunlight of history, bedecked in pearls of blood and fragments of bone.”This is a shelf-bending fantasy masterwork: as good as it gets.
Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021
Page Count: 1008
Publisher: Saga/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021
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by Brandon Sanderson ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2023
Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A fantasy adventure with a sometimes-biting wit.
Tress is an ordinary girl with no thirst to see the world. Charlie is the son of the local duke, but he likes stories more than fencing. When the duke realizes the two teenagers are falling in love, he takes Charlie away to find a suitable wife—and returns with a different young man as his heir. Charlie, meanwhile, has been captured by the mysterious Sorceress who rules the Midnight Sea, which leaves Tress with no choice but to go rescue him. To do that, she’ll have to get off the barren island she’s forbidden to leave, cross the dangerous Verdant Sea, the even more dangerous Crimson Sea, and the totally deadly Midnight Sea, and somehow defeat the unbeatable Sorceress. The seas on Tress’ world are dangerous because they’re not made of water—they’re made of colorful spores that pour down from the world’s 12 stationary moons. Verdant spores explode into fast-growing vines if they get wet, which means inhaling them can be deadly. Crimson and midnight spores are worse. Ships protected by spore-killing silver sail these seas, and it’s Tress’ quest to find a ship and somehow persuade its crew to carry her to a place no ships want to go, to rescue a person nobody cares about but her. Luckily, Tress is kindhearted, resourceful, and curious—which also makes her an appealing heroine. Along her journey, Tress encounters a talking rat, a crew of reluctant pirates, and plenty of danger. Her story is narrated by an unusual cabin boy with a sharp wit. (About one duke, he says, “He’d apparently been quite heroic during those wars; you could tell because a great number of his troops had died, while he lived.”) The overall effect is not unlike The Princess Bride, which Sanderson cites as an inspiration.Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.
Pub Date: April 4, 2023
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023
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by Hannah Kaner ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
An un-put-down-able start to an engrossing low-fantasy trilogy bordering on grimdark.
In a kingdom that slaughtered the gods and criminalized their worship, two god-slayers—a mercenary and a knight—join forces on a pilgrimage to save two other lives.
Years ago, Kissen lost her leg after the people of her village shifted their allegiance to a fire god and burned her family home to the ground. Only a desperate bargain with the sea god her father served saved her life. Now she works as a veiga: a state-sanctioned killer of gods. Under young King Arren's rule, all forms of worship have become illegal, as it is humans' faith that gives birth to the gods and powers them. A series of violent events leaves Kissen as sole protector to Inara, a young girl orphaned by fire and treachery and bound to a small, shrineless god called Skedi. Together, the three must journey to Blenraden, the city where the gods died, to sever Inara and Skedi's connection. Unbeknownst to Kissen and her charges, another godkiller walks in their midst. Knight-turned-baker Elo witnessed the carnage in Blenraden firsthand. It cost him everything. His mothers left the kingdom in the war's aftermath, unwilling to give up their faith. Then the king waltzes back into his orbit, afflicted with a deadly curse. Elo must join the next pilgrimage he can find—Kissen's pilgrimage—if he wants to save his old friend. No sooner has the group set out for the dead city than a god-summoned monster attacks their caravan, forcing Kissen and Elo to reveal their capabilities—and their godkilling weapons as well. In addition to being exquisitely paced and character-driven, Kaner's novel features a widely diverse cast. Queerness does not draw ridicule in Kaner's invented world, and Kissen is bisexual. Many secondary and tertiary characters are queer. Both heroes and two secondary characters have disabilities; he's living with PTSD, while she's an amputee and ambulatory wheelchair user with a handcrafted metal leg. One secondary character also uses a wheelchair, and another is deaf. Elo is coded as Black. Inara and several tertiary characters are coded as nonwhite. Kissen is white, and Skedi is a fantasy creature resembling a jackalope.An un-put-down-able start to an engrossing low-fantasy trilogy bordering on grimdark.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023
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