Tends toward the claustrophobic at times, but superior and fulfilling.

THE KILLING MOON

New ancient Egypt–flavored fantasy from the New York resident author of The Broken Kingdoms (2010, etc.).

In the city and state of Gujaareh, the Hetawa temple is dedicated to Hananja, goddess of dreams, and its priests harvest the people's dreams to create dream-magic to heal wounds and cure ailments. The Hetawa's elite Gatherers also ease the passage of the dying—and kill those judged corrupt. When Gatherer Ehiru is ordered to kill Charleron, a corrupt outlander, somehow his flawless technique goes awry; Charleron dies in agony but not before hinting that something is gravely amiss in the Hetawa. Shaken, Ehiru finds he can no longer function as a Gatherer and goes into seclusion, watched over by his young apprentice, Nijiri—until Ehiru receives orders to kill Sunandi Jeh Kalawe, the "corrupt" ambassador from neighboring Kisua. Sunandi bravely defends herself and reveals that her predecessor and adoptive father passed to her a dreadful secret involving war, murder and, perhaps, Eninket, Prince of the Sunset Throne—who happens to be Ehiru's brother. Though all the signs point towards the Hetawa—innocent dreamers are being murdered by an insensate, renegade Reaper—Ehiru cannot believe that the priesthood itself is corrupt. Nevertheless he agrees to help Sunandi unravel the conspiracy. Though a little too heavily dependent on the intricate details of Gujaareh's religion, Jemisin's patient worldbuilding and extraordinary attention to detail help frame and propel the complex plot, and she weaves subtle, emotionally complex relationships between the main characters. The text includes a useful glossary but, alas, no maps.

Tends toward the claustrophobic at times, but superior and fulfilling.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-18728-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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A new series starts off with a bang.

A QUEEN IN HIDING

A queen and her young daughter are forced to separate and go into hiding when a corrupt politician tries to take over the kingdom.

Queen Cressa of Weirandale is worried about her 8-year-old daughter, the “princella” Cerúlia. The people of Weirandale worship a water spirit, Nargis, who grants each queen a special gift called a Talent. Cressa herself is able to meddle with memories, for example, and her mother possessed supernatural strategic abilities that served her well in battle. Cerúlia, however, appears to have none, because surely her insistence that she can talk to animals is only her young imagination running wild. When Cerúlia’s many pets warn her about assassins creeping into the royal chambers, the girl is able to save herself and her mother. Cressa uses her Talent, which actually extends to forcing anyone to tell her the truth, to root out traitors among the aristocracy, led by the power-hungry Lord Matwyck. Fearing for her daughter’s life and her own, Cressa takes Cerúlia and flees. Thinking Cerúlia will be safer away from her mother, Cressa takes the girl to a kind peasant family and adjusts their memories so they believe Cerúlia is their adopted daughter. Kozloff’s debut is the first of four Nine Realms books, and Tor plans to publish them over just four months. Luckily, the series opener is a strong start, so readers will be grateful for the short wait before Book 2. Kozloff sets a solid stage with glimpses into other characters and nations while keeping the book together with a clear, propulsive plot.

A new series starts off with a bang.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-16854-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

GIDEON THE NINTH

From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 1

This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery.

Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition...and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences.

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31319-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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