Thrilling while remaining both emotionally and logically true; readers will regret bidding farewell to Amalia and her...



Caruso completes her epic Swords and Fire trilogy (The Tethered Mage, 2017; The Defiant Heir, 2018), based in a Venice-like city at the heart of an empire where magic can be wielded like a weapon.

Sadistic (and, unfortunately, immortal and nearly invulnerable) Witch Lord Ruven of Vaskandar prepares to launch the large-scale invasion he’s been threatening for two previous books, infiltrating Raverra via the dangerous magical hybrids known as chimeras and an alchemical potion that puts the drinker, however reluctant, under his control. Meanwhile, Lady Amalia Cornaro, a young Raverran noblewoman with an unorthodox link to the fire mage Zaira, works to convince the Serene Imperial Assembly to pass a law freeing mages from government control, a tricky proposition given that mages are the Serene Empire’s best defense against the Witch Lords’ magic. She’s also still torn emotionally between Marcello, the Falconer Captain she loves, who is politically unsuitable as a husband, and a somewhat better match, Kathe, the mercurial and not entirely trustworthy Witch Lord she’s beginning to care for despite herself. The personal and the political converge explosively as Ruven’s plans come to dreadful fruition: He transforms Marcello into a chimera forced to obey his will and strike at Amalia where she is most vulnerable. Amalia must depend on both Zaira and Kathe to protect and support her as she puzzles out how to defeat this seemingly indestructible foe while trying to guard both her heart and integrity from further injury. Once again, Caruso admirably refuses to pull her punches, for the most part. Bad things happen to good people and choices have real consequences. The book convincingly and compellingly completes Amalia’s transformation from a shy, scholarly young woman reluctant to grasp the reins of power into a capable politician willing to do what is necessary and expedient even if it means a personal sacrifice. Caruso’s writing has also grown in complexity and nuance as the author has charted Amalia’s course.

Thrilling while remaining both emotionally and logically true; readers will regret bidding farewell to Amalia and her friends.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-46693-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 19, 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...


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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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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