A captivating look at the intriguing figures in King Arthur’s golden realm.

QUEEN OF NONE

After decades spent in obscurity, an ignored royal discovers how to make an impact late in life in this novel that reimagines the Arthurian legend.

Anna Pendragon has the misfortune of being the only full-blooded sister of Arthur Pendragon. Yes, that famous king. On the day Anna was born, sorcerer Merlin, the manipulator of Carelon, said of her: “Through all the ages, and in the hearts of men, you will be forgotten.” Anna is married off to the much older Lot of Orkney, bearing him three sons: Gawain and younger twins Gaheris and Gareth. Following Lot’s death, Anna returns home, surrendering Orkney’s crown to Arthur. She hopes she will be allowed to settle down with her true love, Bedevere. Instead, at Merlin's insistence, she is forced into an arranged marriage with Lanceloch, the knight who is Arthur’s current crush. Her exiled aunt Vyvian helps Anna to see the power inside of her, an ability to disappear in the shadows. Using a book of spells supplied by Vyvian, Anna creates Nimue, a comely young woman whose purpose is to seduce and entrap Merlin. The trouble is that Nimue develops a mind of her own: She isn’t ready to let go of her short life. Meanwhile, Anna starts to fade away while powering Nimue. Anna must get her creation back on track or perish. Barron, an established fantasy writer, appears right at home crafting this reinvention of Camelot. As the author unveils her new versions of well-known characters, it isn’t essential for readers to be familiar with Arthurian history and myth, but those who are will enjoy her twists. Her protagonist is ideal for providing an outsider’s perspective on the machinations happening in the Carelon court. But Anna’s curse keeps her from being as plugged in as she should be, having to rely on others—such as her half sister, Morgen, Merlin’s apprentice—for intelligence. The intricate narrative begins with Anna’s birth and then jumps forward. The story spans decades and feels a little draggy at times. But Anna’s righteous crusade to save her kingdom from Merlin’s schemes will propel readers past those slow spots.

A captivating look at the intriguing figures in King Arthur’s golden realm.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 325

Publisher: Vernacular Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

THE LAST GRADUATE

A teenage witch with a natural affinity for dark magic prepares to run a deadly graduation gauntlet in this sequel to Novik's Deadly Education (2020).

Galadriel "El" Higgins has finally reached her senior year at the Scholomance, putting her one step closer to her ultimate goal: get back home or die trying. After getting a sneak peek at the monster-packed hallway she must survive if she wants to graduate, the witchy teen returns to her classes and cliques with scarcely more insight than before. El knows enough to realize that her mana stores are a fraction of what they should be—come graduation, she will lack the magical juice she needs to kill monsters and make it out alive. Her fake-dating relationship with Orion proves to be a lucky "in," netting her a new string of tenuous alliances as well as access to a wellspring of free mana. But what could be a compelling adventure story falls apart here, as the novel relies on relentless bouts of infodumping to keep readers up to speed on where the Scholomance's monsters come from and what they can do to unsuspecting students. None of these paragraphs-long blasts of information recount the details of El's last excursion, however, and so readers who have forgotten Novik's previous novel, or who have never read it at all, will find no springboard ready to help them dive into the author's newest offering. Those who stumble upon this volume risk being unmoored, as the narrative picks up immediately following the events of its predecessor, without stopping to introduce anything, including the narrator. Ultimately, El's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of every monster in the school, combined with her continued refusal to enter into any genuine alliance with classmates, leaves readers to wonder what she could possibly have left to learn—or fear—in the Scholomance.

A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12886-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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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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