The best news this book delivers is that we’ll likely be seeing more from its vivid cast.

Be warned: This is a follow-up to Lovecraft Country, the 2016 novel, not the HBO adaptation, so what you saw on TV won’t help much here. But there’s still outrageous trickery, sharp period detail, and chilling perils.

The year 1957 finds Chicago’s roving Turner and Dandridge families once again pursued by and in pursuit of mystic forces, some of which mean to do them serious harm. Atticus Turner and his father, Montrose, are in Virginia looking for evidence of their Black slave ancestors when they’re suddenly under attack by a White antagonist they’d previously faced several hundred miles north in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Hippolyta Berry, Atticus’ aunt and the most scientifically minded family member, is way out west in Las Vegas with her 15-year-old son, Horace, and good friend Letitia Dandridge, ostensibly to gather research for her husband George’s The Safe Negro Travel Guide while also meeting with a sinister pawnbroker who carries the keys to a device able to transport people from Earth to any far-flung place in the galaxy. Meanwhile, George Berry, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, makes a Faustian bargain with the ghost of Hiram Winthrop, the brilliant, malevolent scientist from Lovecraft Country who promises to provide George with a cure if George can find a cadaver for Winthrop to—what is the word?—reanimate. And then there’s Ruby Dandridge, Letitia’s sister, still leading a double life as a redheaded White woman named Hillary Hyde, whose supply of potions enabling her transformation is running dangerously low. And those are just some of the complications of what now seems an ongoing series of phantasmagoric adventures of these intrepid warriors fighting a two-front battle in mid-20th century America against White supremacy and dark magic. Where its predecessor was constructed of separate stories focusing on different family members, this book operates with more interwoven narratives that Ruff manages to yoke together into one ripping yarn with shocks and surprises at every turn. This sequel may lack some of the demented grandeur that the TV series cheekily borrowed from its namesake, but it’s still lots of fun—and, at times, historically enlightening.

The best news this book delivers is that we’ll likely be seeing more from its vivid cast.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-063-25689-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023


From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024


From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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