A final book that stays true to the spirit of the whole, sending readers out of Shaftal on a high note.

AIR LOGIC

The culminating chapter of Marks’ (Water Logic, 2007, etc.) acclaimed tetralogy finds Karis G’deon and her sprawling family once more imperiled, this time by the legacy of violence that threatens to unravel the fragile peace they have woven across their land.

Marks’ Elemental Logic series introduced readers to the realm of Shaftal, an intricately imagined land whose people operate within the boundaries of their basic natures—here defined as logics—which sometimes bequeath them with access to magical, elemental powers and sometimes embroil them in unsolvable internal conflicts. In the first book of the series, the invasion of the magic-hating Sainnites destroyed Shaftal’s government and exposed its people to subjugation and starvation under the cruel rule of the invaders. In true fantasy fashion, only Karis, a reluctant earth witch addicted to a deadly drug, and her band of equally unlikely allies can rise to rebuild the shattered legacy of Shaftal into a new world capable of sheltering Shaftali and Sainnite alike. The final book opens in what seems like the epilogue of their struggles. Karis has assumed the mantle of leadership, and her family—a polyamorous clan of friends, lovers, parents, and sparring partners—has joined their sometimes-querulous forces to work in unity toward the new governmental order. Peril follows them, however, as series favorites (Zanja, Karis’ wife and last member of a slaughtered border tribe; Emil, a scholar-warrior from old Shaftal; Medric, a Sainnite seer who knows more than he can say; Norina, a disagreeable air witch for whom both love and justice are swift and total) must do battle with a traitor from within their own home who threatens not only to undo all their efforts at peace, but also the bonds of their family. Invested in diversity, the Elemental Logic series as a whole represents characters who are neurodiverse, queer, ethnically and racially varied, and unaffected by gendered assumptions of societal roles. This final book goes one step further to champion the value of long, committed friendships as equal to, and sometimes even superior to, the passions of romantic love. Shaftal is a convincing world, lovingly detailed and fiercely envisioned. Marks' characters are so real in their depth of feeling that a reader unfamiliar with the convoluted interpersonal relationships established over the last three books can feel left behind. However, as the last note in a familiar melody, this book rings true.

A final book that stays true to the spirit of the whole, sending readers out of Shaftal on a high note.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61873-160-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Small Beer Press

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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NINTH HOUSE

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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