For latter-day D&D fans, a long-awaited moment. For the rest—well, maybe J.K. Rowling will write another book after all.

THE WISE MAN'S FEAR

A walloping sword-and-sorcery fest from Rothfuss, the second volume in a projected trilogy (The Name of the Wind, 2007).

Readers of that debut—and if you weren’t a reader of the first volume, then none of the second will make any sense to you—will remember that its protagonist, Kvothe (rhymes with “quoth”), was an orphan with magical powers and, as the years rolled by, the ability to pull music out of the air and write “songs that make the minstrels weep.” The second volume finds him busily acquiring all kinds of knowledge to help his wizardly career along, for which reason he is in residence in a cool college burg, “barely more than a town, really,” that has other towns beat by a league in the arcane-knowledge department, to say nothing of cafés where you can talk elevated talk and drink “Veltish coffee and Vintish wine,” as good post-hobbits must. For one thing, the place has a direct line to a vast underground archive where pretty much everything that has ever been thought or imagined is catalogued; for another thing, anyone who is anyone in the world of eldritch studies comes by, which puts Kvothe in close proximity to the impossibly beautiful fairy Felurian, who makes hearts go flippity-flop and knows some pretty good tricks in the way of evading evil. Evil there is, and in abundance, but who cares if you’re dating such a cool creature? Rothfuss works all the well-worn conventions of the genre, with a shadow cloak here and a stinging sword there and lots of wizardry throughout, blending a thoroughly prosaic prose style with the heft-of-tome ambitions of a William T. Vollmann. This is a great big book indeed, but not much happens—which, to judge by the success of its predecessor, will faze readers not a whit.

For latter-day D&D fans, a long-awaited moment. For the rest—well, maybe J.K. Rowling will write another book after all.

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7564-0473-4

Page Count: 1008

Publisher: DAW/Berkley

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some White people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only White avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, White people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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