Nonetheless, a good finish to the series that nicely sets the stage for a prequel, due in 2007.

READ REVIEW

THE HARSH CRY OF THE HERON

THE LAST TALE OF THE OTORI

The peace after the long war proves not so peaceful in this surprise fourth installment of Tales of the Otori.

Readers had already undergone much emotional turmoil by the end of Brilliance of the Moon (2004), Hearn’s supposed conclusion to her epic saga about romantic and dynastic struggles in a country suspiciously like Japan but imbued with actual magic. Yet the series ended all too abruptly once victory had been achieved, making this lengthy coda most welcome. After uniting the long fractious Three Countries, Otori Takeo rules benevolently, as befits his upbringing among The Hidden, a persecuted religious group that practices a neo-Christian faith of kindness and generosity. Although Takeo has officially renounced these beliefs, many of his advisers find him altogether too humane for a strong ruler. Pax Otori has proved beneficial to most residents of the Three Countries, but some malcontents are trying to cause trouble. Particularly fractious are members of The Tribe, a dwindling race possessed of magical powers that finds its usually marketable skills of espionage and assassination less in demand now that Otori has banned torture and refused to handle potential rivals in the usual manner (by killing them). Plots brew from within, mostly fomented by embittered Tribe member Akio, while white foreigners brandishing firearms threaten the borders. Meanwhile, Takeo tries to juggle an impossible number of tasks, from raising his twin daughters (one of whom may have Tribe-like abilities) to limiting the power of foreigners eager to open up trade routes. Previously, the series built inexorably and carefully toward the final cataclysmic confrontation, but here, it all takes too long to get moving. Only near the end of this overlong narrative do the gears begin to catch.

Nonetheless, a good finish to the series that nicely sets the stage for a prequel, due in 2007.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2006

ISBN: 1-59448-923-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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

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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