Next book


A delightfully cacophonous novel, teeming with character.

Tidhar's latest offering transports readers to a liminal otherworld of spaghetti Western pastiche.

Somewhere, in some city, a nameless man attends his dying son's bedside, powerless to save the boy. Desperate to find a cure, he slips into the Escapement: a Western world of maniacal whimsy populated by bounty hunters, stone giants, mimes, and clowns. Here, the ghost of John Wayne Gacy becomes a bloodthirsty giant, and P.T. Barnum is recast as a clown-enslaving general. The man, known in the Escapement as the Stranger, is not alone; most of the people in this weird desert come there from the real world by way of dream, drink, or death. Studded with features like the Big Rock Candy Mountains and the Desert de Soleil, the land bears intimate connections to the dying boy in the hospital bed—a boy who loves the circus and its clowns—and it's here that the Stranger hopes to find his son a panacea: Ur-shanabi, the Plant of Heartbeat. In keeping with its roots in midcentury Westerns, Tidhar's novel casts the Escapement's clowns as Native American analogs, turning the Stranger into their White savior and avenger, a man who knows that "one should never be unkind to clowns." The author draws from an eclectic mix of sources to create a dazzling story that is more than the sum of its parts, and much of the fun of reading it comes from recognizing its homages. Knowledgeable readers will notice shades of Stephen King, Lewis Carroll, and Westworld here, and Tidhar himself cites Z. Ariel's fairy tale, "The Heart of the Golden Flower," the Epic of Gilgamesh, Salvador Dalí, tarot cards, and Sergio Leone as particular sources of inspiration.

A delightfully cacophonous novel, teeming with character.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61696-327-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

Next book


From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

Next book


From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

Close Quickview