A speculative tale that has fun with its genre’s chapter-and-verse.

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THE ALCHEMIST'S PORTAL

In Acco’s debut SF/fantasy novel, three of the Vatican’s clerical elite fight malevolent entities who covet an alchemical artifact from the 17th century.

In a not-too-distant future, the Catholic Church embraces the use of high-tech superweapons to fight evil. This comes in handy when a doorway, fashioned by Prussian alchemists in the 1600s using meteorite ore, suddenly appears. The alchemists unwisely created it in a bid to reach God and heaven directly, and it had a tendency to teleport uncontrollably, spewing deadly radiation as it did so. Space miners found it on the moon centuries later, then lost it again; now, it seems to be connected to violent, occult-related incidents around the globe. The church tasks a trio of Catholic “Magisters” to investigate: tough priest Lev Kraal, advanced android Michael (which uses technology from benevolent aliens), and a new recruit, priest Wilhemina “Will” Grand, who’s haunted by guilt. In an action-packed, episodic narrative, they face demons and shape-shifters who aim to use the doorway for their own malicious purposes. Unusually, the author waits until midway through the novel to provide the sort of backstory that many other SF writers place upfront; the narrative occurs in the aftermath of a veritable Armageddon in which billions of humans died due to climate change, wealth inequality, war, and species extinction, among other reasons. Meanwhile, money and capitalism have practically been abolished. Fans of the Star Trek mythos may note that its noble United Federation of Planets had a similar origin, and the book’s ambiance is somewhat Gene Roddenberry–like, right down to Michael’s resemblance to Lt. Cmdr. Data and some cheeky humor, especially in the colorfully infernal villains’ repartee. Compared with other faith-based genre fiction, which is often written from an Evangelical Protestant perspective, the preaching is relatively light, and there are nods to representatives of Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Although the Catholic Church, as portrayed here, seems fairly broad-minded, the tradition of priestly celibacy perseveres, so there are no sex scenes; indeed, even evil entities treat the subject of sexuality with delicacy.

A speculative tale that has fun with its genre’s chapter-and-verse.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-70697-263-1

Page Count: 197

Publisher: World Castle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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