Not exactly profound, but top-notch literary escapism with nonstop action, well-developed characters and jaw-dropping plot...

COLLISION

THE BATTLE FOR DARRACIA - BOOK 2

At breakneck speed, Cash’s (Schism, 2013, etc.)second installment in the Darracia saga blends elements of sci-fi and fantasy as it continues to chronicle the adventures of a small group of heroes desperately attempting to unite a war-torn planet.

Still reeling from his uncle’s brutal attempt to usurp his father’s throne, V’sair—now king of Darracia—is struggling to keep alive his dead father’s dreams of a united planet. But the tensions between the Darracians (muscular humanoids with tails who live in floating cities) and the Quyroos, who live in the forests far below, are rising. To make matters worse, V’sair’s treacherous uncle Staf Nuen, a Darracian, has escaped and is no doubt planning another attack. The novel is essentially two intertwining storylines: One follows V’sair and his love interest, Tulani, a Quyroo high priestess, as they try to reunite the two races while also uncovering a traitor in their ranks; the other follows V’sair’s brother Zayden and his mission to find—and kill—Nuen. While both storylines are well-constructed and compelling, Zayden’s is easily the more entertaining as he tracks Nuen from planet to planet, going from one hair-raising adventure to another. The sequences featuring Zayden and Denita—including his overly possessive and undeniably seductive savior (“I saved you and you belong to me”)—give the story’s serious tone some much-needed levity. In a minor setback, the narrative tends to lose focus on worldbuilding. The series’ first volume was filled with rich descriptions of the various locales on and around Darracia—the thick forest of the Desa, for example—while this novel concentrates much more on action than on setting.

Not exactly profound, but top-notch literary escapism with nonstop action, well-developed characters and jaw-dropping plot twists.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4952-7348-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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NINTH HOUSE

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

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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