Readers who relish Modesitt's magical battles have waited through two volumes for them to materialize; they will find their...

THE MAGE-FIRE WAR

Third entry in a miniseries (Outcasts of Order, 2018, etc.) within the Recluce fantasy universe; this is the 21st novel overall. The struggle between white chaos magic and black order magic continues.

Beltur, a black mage with the extraordinary ability to blend both chaos and order, and his wife, Jessyla, a healer, have been driven yet again from their home by jealous rivals, unscrupulous rulers, and prejudiced townsfolk. Accompanying them is another refugee family, the black mage Lhadoraak, his nonmagical wife, Tulya, and their young daughter, Taelya, a budding white wizard Beltur is tutoring. They arrive in Montgren at the invitation of the ruling duchess, and they hope to settle in the town of Haven. The duchess's endowment of gold and troopers seemed generous enough, but Haven turns out to be lawless and half abandoned, bossed by thugs and agents of Massyngal, the malign, despotic duke of neighboring Hydlen who has long nursed ambitions of annexing the place. To set the town to rights and defy the armies and chaos wizards of Hydlen, Beltur will need all his considerable problem-solving skills and hard-won expertise as a battle mage. This entry pivots away from the two previous books, which explored complex philosophical and social issues, in favor of more direct action. Beltur, then, must figure out a way to defeat an opponent whose troops and wizards follow orders no matter what. And series fans, understanding that the order in which the books are written bears no relation to the saga's internal chronology, will appreciate the supreme irony that the stronghold known to the future as Fairhaven was founded by black mages.

Readers who relish Modesitt's magical battles have waited through two volumes for them to materialize; they will find their reward here.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20782-1

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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