by Madeleine Nakamura ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
A tightly plotted conspiracy novel that blends seamlessly with its superbly developed setting.
Two men starved for community and camaraderie fall into a multilayered conspiracy that offers both a shot at redemption.
The justice system acquitted Adrien Desfourneaux of witchcraft charges years ago. Back then, he worked as a doctor in a psychiatric facility where he pushed forward an experimental procedure that left all his test subjects dead or comatose. He gave up medicine and now works as a professor at the Pharmakeia, a magical college. These days, Adrien is more concerned about treating his own mental illness—dithymic akrasia—than healing others’ maladies. But when a curse with symptoms eerily similar to those his patients endured begins claiming both Pharmakeia students and soldiers of the Vigil—an organization whose sole responsibility is to police magically talented citizens—he feels compelled to launch his own investigation. Confronting the ghosts of his past throws the akratic professor into a mixed state just as the Vigil sends soldiers and witchfinders to the Pharmakeia to ferret out whatever witch or witches are responsible for the curse. One of those soldiers is Gennady Richter, a painfully awkward young man who trained with many of the victims in childhood and now believes his previous commanding officer may be involved in the conspiracy. Unfortunately, Gennady’s obliviousness to social cues leads directly to the two men’s deputization as Vigil spies—though Adrien’s support network believes the whole thing is a psychotic delusion. Nakamura’s treatment is nuanced and thoughtful, avoiding a veritable minefield of harmful stereotypes to deliver genuine characters with heart. This is a society that openly accepts queer people; Adrien is gay, as are the members of his network. Additionally, Adrien’s and Gennady’s conditions—coded as bipolar disorder and autism, respectively—are integral to the story.A tightly plotted conspiracy novel that blends seamlessly with its superbly developed setting.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 284
Publisher: Canis Major Books/Red Hen
Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023
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by John Scalzi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 19, 2023
Fun while it lasts but not one of Scalzi’s stronger books.
Some people are born supervillains, and others have supervillainy thrust upon them.
Charlie Fitzer, a former business journalist–turned–substitute teacher, is broke and somewhat desperate. His circumstances take an unexpected and dangerous turn when his estranged uncle Jake dies, leaving his business—i.e., his trillion-dollar supervillain empire—to Charlie. Charlie doesn’t really have the skills or experience to manage the staff of the volcano lair, and matters don’t improve when he’s pressured to attend a high-level meeting with other supervillains, none of whom got along with his uncle. With the aid of his uncle’s No. 1, Mathilda Morrison, and his cat, Hera (who turns out to be an intelligent and typing-capable spy for his uncle’s organization), Charlie must sort out whom he can trust before he gets blackmailed, blown up, or both. This book serves as a follow-up of sorts to Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society (2022) in that both are riffs on genre film tropes. The current work is fluffier and sillier than the previous novel and, indeed, many of Scalzi’s other books, although there is the occasional jab about governments being in bed with unscrupulous corporate enterprises or the ways in which people can profit from human suffering. This is one of many available stories about a good-hearted Everyman thrust into fantastical circumstances, struggling to survive as a fish out of water, and, while well executed for its type, the plot doesn’t go anywhere that will surprise you.Fun while it lasts but not one of Scalzi’s stronger books.
Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023
Page Count: 272
Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023
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by Brandon Sanderson ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2023
Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A fantasy adventure with a sometimes-biting wit.
Tress is an ordinary girl with no thirst to see the world. Charlie is the son of the local duke, but he likes stories more than fencing. When the duke realizes the two teenagers are falling in love, he takes Charlie away to find a suitable wife—and returns with a different young man as his heir. Charlie, meanwhile, has been captured by the mysterious Sorceress who rules the Midnight Sea, which leaves Tress with no choice but to go rescue him. To do that, she’ll have to get off the barren island she’s forbidden to leave, cross the dangerous Verdant Sea, the even more dangerous Crimson Sea, and the totally deadly Midnight Sea, and somehow defeat the unbeatable Sorceress. The seas on Tress’ world are dangerous because they’re not made of water—they’re made of colorful spores that pour down from the world’s 12 stationary moons. Verdant spores explode into fast-growing vines if they get wet, which means inhaling them can be deadly. Crimson and midnight spores are worse. Ships protected by spore-killing silver sail these seas, and it’s Tress’ quest to find a ship and somehow persuade its crew to carry her to a place no ships want to go, to rescue a person nobody cares about but her. Luckily, Tress is kindhearted, resourceful, and curious—which also makes her an appealing heroine. Along her journey, Tress encounters a talking rat, a crew of reluctant pirates, and plenty of danger. Her story is narrated by an unusual cabin boy with a sharp wit. (About one duke, he says, “He’d apparently been quite heroic during those wars; you could tell because a great number of his troops had died, while he lived.”) The overall effect is not unlike The Princess Bride, which Sanderson cites as an inspiration.Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.
Pub Date: April 4, 2023
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023
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