A satisfyingly supernatural back story for the all-too-real final war of the Roman Republic.

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THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN

Titans of Roman history grapple for control of an empire with the aid of a mystical weapon in this debut historical fantasy novel from Livingston.

After the assassination of Julius Caesar, two groups attempted to seize control of his domain: his adopted son, Octavian; and Mark Antony, whose lover, Cleopatra, is mother to Caesar’s biological child, Caesarion. Woven into this very real historical conflict is a dose of fantasy: Juba, Octavian’s adopted brother, has recently discovered a magical artifact. Known by many names, including Poseidon’s Trident and the Staff of Moses, its provenance is unclear but its powers are unquestionable—it can move objects, shred a man to pieces, and manipulate the waters of the sea—and its strength seems to originate from a jet-black stone at its heart. Juba is searching for another artifact—scrolls said to hold the secrets of the gods—but Octavian’s blood lust and cruelty are hampering his efforts. Meanwhile, as Cleopatra’s children and their tutor attempt to evade Octavian in the sprawling, bustling city of Alexandria, the truth of the origin of the Trident—and its sister artifact, the Ark—is coming to light. Meanwhile, armed with the Trident, Octavian and his army are bearing down on them. Bloody battles are waged, unoriginal but relevant theological questions are laid before the sprawling cast of characters and their shifting alliances, and while the outcome of history is fixed in time, the question of how these events came to be is given new life. Readers with an interest in this era will be captivated by the weaving of fiction with the reality of the past and the weaving of the reality of the past with the magic of the unseen world, even if the religious inquiries of the text aren’t especially fresh.

A satisfyingly supernatural back story for the all-too-real final war of the Roman Republic.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8031-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

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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