A sort of Victorian why-what-whodunit embellished by Brennan’s singular upgrade of a fantasy bromide and revitalizingly...

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A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS

A MEMOIR BY LADY TRENT

New Victorian-feminist fantasy and first of a series, from the author of the Onyx Court tales (With Fate Conspire, 2011, etc.).

At a tender age, Isabella, daughter of Sir Daniel Hendemore of Scirland, becomes fascinated by dragons and devotes hours of study to sparklings, tiny flying creatures regarded by most contemporary naturalists as insects. In an age when educating girls in science and philosophy is frowned upon, Isabella finds information hard to come by. Once of age, her father insists she marry; luckily, she finds Jacob Camherst, the son of a rich local baronet, not only handsome and charming, but also passionate about dragons. Jacob is willing to indulge her thirst for knowledge and defy convention—in private. But then Isabella’s talents come to the notice of Lord Hilford, a famous naturalist and explorer, who astonishingly consents to her joining the expedition he’s currently organizing to Vystrana in search of rock-wyrms. Eastern European–flavored Vystrana is cold, damp, mountainous, primitive and impoverished, and the locals are far from welcoming. Worse, before they even arrive at the remote village where they will sojourn, they’re attacked by a dragon! Since Vystrani dragons aren’t noted for their bellicosity, overjoyed if rather shaken Isabella resolves to investigate. This isn’t the first such attack, the locals reluctantly confide; smugglers operate in the area, and perhaps other nefarious activities occur that the Vystrani refuse to admit. There are clues, however, and nothing daunted, Isabella starts to put them together. Told in the style of a Victorian memoir, courageous, intelligent and determined Isabella’s account is colorful, vigorous and absorbing.

A sort of Victorian why-what-whodunit embellished by Brennan’s singular upgrade of a fantasy bromide and revitalizingly different viewpoint.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3196-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

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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