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

READ REVIEW

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

A DEADLY EDUCATION

From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more