Shelf-bending fantasy that is action-packed, intricately plotted, and breakneck paced.

GODS AND DRAGONS

The concluding volume of Anderson’s Wake the Dragon trilogy wraps up the epic fantasy tale chronicling a grand-scale war between nations, races, and even family members that could raise a mythical creature and destroy the world.

As the novel opens, hatred and resentments that have been smoldering for thousands of years are finally igniting. The three kingdoms—led by the newly crowned but unbalanced Konag Mandan—are going to war against the nation of Ishara. Adan Starfall, king of Suderra, and Kollanan, king of Norterra, understand that Ishara isn’t the three kingdoms' biggest worry—that would be the wreths, a race of magical humanoid creatures who believe their ultimate destiny is to awaken, and slay, the great dragon Ossus so that the god Kur can remake the world. Attempting to kill Ossus would require the wreths to wake the monstrosity from its slumber underneath a mountain range—and waking it could not only remake the world, but destroy it. Adan and Kollanan are also aware that dethroning Mandan is of utmost importance in stopping an unwanted war with Ishara. In Ishara, a power-hungry priest named Klovus has grabbed control after attempting to kill Empra Iluris, the nation’s spiritual leader. Barely alive, and hidden away, Iluris must somehow win back her people and country. Meanwhile, Koru, queen of the frostwreths, plots to kill the sandwreth queen in order to unite all wreths before waking the dragon….Although the narrative—parceled out in the form of multiple storylines from a diversity of characters—is a bit unwieldy in the opening chapters, those storylines slowly converge and intertwine, propelling the grand-scale action forward at what turns out to be a relentless pace. The numerous threads eventually meet in an earth-shattering bloodbath of a final conflict that will have fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire standing up and applauding.

Shelf-bending fantasy that is action-packed, intricately plotted, and breakneck paced.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-30220-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Well-drawn characters introduce the criminal underworld to the occult kind in a breathless and compelling plot.

HELL BENT

From the Alex Stern series , Vol. 2

A Yale sophomore fights for her life as she balances academics with supernatural extracurriculars in this smart fantasy thriller, the second in a series.

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is a member of Lethe House, the ninth of Yale’s secret societies. And not just any member—she’s Virgil, the officer who conducts the society's rituals. In the world of Bardugo’s Alex Stern series, Yale’s secret societies command not just powerful social networks, but actual magic; it’s Lethe’s job to keep that magic in control. Alex is new to the role. She had to take over in a hurry after the previous Virgil, Darlington, her mentor and love interest, disappeared in a cliffhanger at the end of the first book. He appears to be in hell, but is he stuck there for good? Alex and Pamela Dawes—Lethe’s Oculus, or archivist/administrator—have found a reference to a pathway called a Gauntlet that can open a portal to hell, but can they find the Gauntlet itself? And what about the four murderers the Gauntlet ritual requires? Meanwhile, Alex’s past as a small-time drug dealer is catching up with her, adding gritty street crime to the demonic white-collar evil the Yale crowd tends to prefer. The plot is relentless and clever, and the writing is vivid, intelligent, and funny at just the right moments, but best of all are the complex characters, such as the four murderers, each with a backstory that makes it possible for the reader to trust them to enter hell and have the strength to leave again. Like the first book, this one ends with a cliffhanger.

Well-drawn characters introduce the criminal underworld to the occult kind in a breathless and compelling plot.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-31310-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

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FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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