A supernatural sequel that echoes the best and worst aspects of its predecessor.

BLACK HOLLOW

PART II

In this second installment of Ashman’s (Black Hollow, 2012) dark fantasy saga, the evil Wizard remains trapped in Black Hollow—but that doesn’t mean that all’s well in this magical world.

In the series’ first novella, unlikely heroine Jessica Bannerly came through a portal into the fantastical world of the Silver Glade only to discover that her arrival could mean the possible return of the Wizard, the land’s former overlord. He sought to sacrifice Jessica in order to break the spells that kept him confined to his cavernous prison for all eternity. However, Jessica was killed by demonic rats, which foiled the Wizard’s plan. At the start of this book, he remains imprisoned and uses his powers to try to lure someone else with Jessica’s blood to his lair—her older brother, Justin. The Wizard uses a magical mental connection to force Jessica’s best friend, a newly turned werewolf named Ciara, to deliver Justin into his clutches. Ciara, who mourns the loss of both Jessica and her own brother, is in a weakened emotional state and thus susceptible to the Wizard’s charms. However, when she develops romantic feelings for Justin, things grow more complicated. Throw in a fairy priestess, a group of unicorn guardians, a shape-shifting vampire girl and a gargoyle—not to mention a few dragons—and readers may easily become overwhelmed by the story. This imaginative sequel shares the same primary weakness as the first brief installment: It packs a little too much into too few pages. However, Ashman again creates a magical atmosphere that’s dark and disturbing, like M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Village crossed with The Lord of the Rings series, with an extra dose of gore (“All around, werewolves pounced…filling the air with the loud cracks of dying Fairies”). Readers will likely want to bask in the creepiness instead of simply trying to keep track of what’s going on.

A supernatural sequel that echoes the best and worst aspects of its predecessor. 

Pub Date: March 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-1483615622

Page Count: 92

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2014

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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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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