This novel has a refreshing, if somewhat dated, feminist ethos: “a handful of women and a few young girls” emerge as the...

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AGE OF SWORDS

From the Legends of the First Empire series , Vol. 2

Although Raithe the God-Killer had shown humanity that the magical Fhrey are mortal and not mythic gods, open conflict remains between the two nations; with the balance of power tipped toward the advanced weaponry of the Fhrey, Rhune chieftain Persephone must undertake a quest of wit and wisdom, rather than brawn, to give humanity a fighting chance to win.

The second book of Sullivan’s epic-fantasy series The Legends of the First Empire returns readers to the land of Elan in the years before his previous Riyria Chronicles. Picking up where Age of Myth (2016) left off, the book follows the adventures of Suri, a mystic, and her white wolf, Minna; Persephone, chieftain of Dahl Rhen; Arion, the renegade ylfe; Raithe; Brin, the Keeper of the Ways; schemers Malcolm and Nyphron, and some new players, such as crippled Gifford and his friend and inventor named Roan. Launching readers headfirst into another action-packed (if cliché-filled) epic, Sullivan begins with a fatal lightning storm, which heralds an invasion of Giants, leading to all-out war between the Fhrey and the Rhune. The fate of “even all of humanity” will come to rest on Persephone’s cunning (she steals secrets from a race of dwarves), the inventions of Roan, and the moxie of a girl, Moya, who has become an expert at the bow and arrow (echoes of The Hunger Games). Along the way, some new/old technologies, like the quill pen, ironmongering, and archery, are invented, and Persephone’s quest brings her clan the ability to forge swords of iron far stronger than the Fhrey’s bronze ones that will be used to usher in a new age.

This novel has a refreshing, if somewhat dated, feminist ethos: “a handful of women and a few young girls” emerge as the newfound font of cultural strength in a changing society and are the heroes of this otherwise derivative tale.

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-96536-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some white people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only white avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, white people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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