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

READ REVIEW

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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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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