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


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 charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.


Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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