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

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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Fantasy fans will love this fast-paced adventure, with its complex magic system, thoughtful hero and bold heroine.

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC

From the Shades of Magic series , Vol. 1

A fast-paced fantasy adventure that takes readers into a series of interconnected worlds ruled by magic—or the lack of it.

Long ago, the doors between worlds were open, and anyone with magic could travel from one to the next. Now the doors are closed, and only a chosen few have the power to travel between Grey London, a world without magic, Red London, a world suffused with it, and White London, a world where magic is scarce, coveted and jealously guarded. As for Black London, the city consumed, no one would be so foolish as to risk a trip—not even Kell. Officially, he’s a royal messenger, carrying letters among the rulers of the three Londons. Unofficially, he’s a smuggler who collects artifacts from other worlds. It’s that habit that leads him to accept a dangerous relic, something that shouldn’t exist. And it’s when a wanted Grey London thief named Lila steals the artifact that the real trouble starts—for both of them. Schwab (Vicious, 2013, etc.) creates a memorable world—actually, three memorable worlds—and even more memorable characters. Lila in particular is a winningly unconventional heroine who, as she declares, would “rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” The brisk plot makes this a page-turner that confronts darkness but is never overwhelmed by it.

Fantasy fans will love this fast-paced adventure, with its complex magic system, thoughtful hero and bold heroine.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7645-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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