A yarn that, with its second novel woes, trips, staggers, and recovers, ultimately to delight and enthrall.

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DRAGON HUNTERS

The second installment of Turner’s projected fantasy trilogy (Red Tide, 2016, etc.), wherein, disconcertingly, perhaps even disappointingly, none of the previous characters or locales reappear.

It’s not all gloom and doom, though. This time, a power struggle among the ruling water-mages of the Storm Isles, backed by another swarming if less engaging supporting cast, develops complications in a dazzling new setting. Imerle Polivar, emira (leader) of the Storm Council, must retire from her position. She’s already plotting, however, to destroy the other Storm Lords and rule forever. Rapidly approaching is the annual sea dragon hunt—a bizarre and horrifyingly dangerous ritual that Imerle intends to twist to her own ends, blind to the fact that her most powerful rival, Mazana Creed, is plotting a coup. Another Guardian, Senar Sol, has been sent into exile via a magical gateway by an emperor who seemingly wants the Guardians destroyed altogether. Not one but two assassins show up to kill Imerle, one a curiously bright-eyed woman, the other a man with skin that resembles granite and powerful water-magic—but did Mazana really send them both? And who, or what, is the stone-skinned stranger? The whole thing culminates in a titanic brouhaha involving ships, a ruinous battle whose setting is a subaqueous palace maintained by Storm Lord magic, sharks, dragons, and what-all. Not the tightly focused, relentless all-actioner that the previous book was, it takes a few hundred pages to get going, has persistent flabby patches, and the power struggle’s on a personal rather than a desperately existential level. But there are still plenty of surprises, stunningly inventive magics, witty dialogue, and flashes of bleak humor amid the carnage.

A yarn that, with its second novel woes, trips, staggers, and recovers, ultimately to delight and enthrall.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3713-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2016

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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