Even those immune to the charms of fantasy and operatic tribal warfare can admire Hearn’s skill at juggling so many...



From the Tale of Shikanoko series , Vol. 2

The second installment in Hearn’s The Tale of Shikanoko series about a mythical version of feudal Japan.

Newcomers to the series may initially find it difficult to follow the storyline, which picks up without preamble or recap where Emperor of the Eight Islands (2016) left off. The young warrior sorcerer Shika awakens in the Darkwood and returns to the hut of the sorcerer Shisoku, whom he hasn’t seen for more than a year, with the magic mask Shisoku made for him and that he has broken. The sorceress Lady Tora shows up at the hut, too, and soon gives birth to five demon male children. Before the flames of death engulf her, she charges Shika to raise the boys, who grow with unnatural speed. Shika yearns to find Aki, the princess he loves but betrayed, and Yoshimori, the Hidden Emperor whom he wants to restore to the throne, but first he sets out to regain the estate his uncle has stolen from him. Meanwhile, Aki and Yoshimori find protection among a family of monkeys. Lord Aritomo of the Miboshi has taken political control as the new emperor and sends off his close ally Takaakira to find Aki at her father’s old estate, unaware that Takaakira is harboring Hina, daughter of Aritomo’s slain enemy Lord Kiyoyori. Hina’s self-serving but charismatic uncle Masachika keeps switching allegiances between the warring factions of Miboshi and Kuromori but still loves his estranged wife, Tama, who has won a legal battle against him over her father’s land. Gradually these major characters begin to have fateful interactions with each other, fueled by human love, greed, ambition, and vengeance, while aided or hindered by supernatural forces often hidden within animals or objects. At the center is Shika, whose frequent escapes from death promise a special destiny.

Even those immune to the charms of fantasy and operatic tribal warfare can admire Hearn’s skill at juggling so many characters who defy fairy-tale simplicity.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-53632-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...


Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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

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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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