A vibrant array of colorful characters guides readers through this absorbing fantasy.

A WICKED WIND

BOOK TWO OF THE ARCHANIUM CODEX

A warrior and his half-angel lover confront a powerful sorcerer threatening their war-torn land in this fantasy sequel.

Civil war has devastated the realm of Ilyar, as rebel forces have besieged its capital. Aleksei Drago, lord captain of Her Majesty’s Legion, couldn’t stop the rebellion but can still protect the queen. He sends her and the princess east—away from the revolutionaries—while he rushes to the enemy’s next targeted city. But it’s the man he loves, Jonas Belgi, who may need his help most. Jonas, the queen’s nephew, prince, and an angel-human hybrid, is up north with the Seraphima. He’s effectively a prisoner since the angels won’t let him leave, ostensibly protecting him from the Demon Bael. This evil Magus has already cursed Jonas with the “Demonic Presence.” If the Presence takes hold of Jonas outside the angels’shields, it could destroy the world. Aleksei plans to free his future husband, but the villains, unable to get their clutches on Jonas, go after the lord captain. He’s soon facing a “wind demon”—a deadly, nearly invisible entity. Elsewhere, someone has taken the princess while Aleksei and others fight to regain Ilyar’s capital. Both Aleksei, a fierce Hunter, and Jonas, a Magus, have formidable abilities. The prince is a shape-shifter, and his lover has the Mantle, an astonishing power that expels tendrils from Aleksei’s body that feed off others’ energies. All the while, Jonas fears he’ll lose control to the Presence, which will terrorize the world using him as its human host.

McIntire’s epic tale accommodates an extensive cast. But the story unfolds across a relatively small landscape, making the various subplots easy to follow. For example, the search for the princess entails traveling west to Fanj, and a menace awaits in the mountains along the way. Despite the lengthy narrative, tension remains high throughout; Bael and his ilk provide a constant threat, abducting some and killing others as the war rages. There’s action, too, though it’s often over in a flash, especially since the Mantle effortlessly dispatches villains. This curious being, which occasionally talks to Aleksei and demands to feed, somewhat resembles the Marvel character Venom. The lord captain’s indisputable strength fuses well with his devotion to Jonas; even with only a spattering of romantic interludes, his love clearly drives him. But supporting characters don’t let the two leads completely steal the spotlight. Katherine, Aleksei’s friend, braves enemy territory as a spy. Aleksei’s cousin Roux Devaan shows off his “Darting” skill, which allows him to “flicker from one point to another.” McIntire complements his characters and worldbuilding with lucid details: “The market had been built in the center of the village, a great open ring of small booths that appeared to have stood for decades….Above each booth was a strip of brightly dyed cloth, Fanja script painted roughly across it alongside pictograms, displaying the nature of the wares available.” Though the author ties up a few subplots, he leaves unresolved bits for the series’ third installment.

A vibrant array of colorful characters guides readers through this absorbing fantasy.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 661

Publisher: Black Dove Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2021

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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 deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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