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THE ESSENTIAL PETER S. BEAGLE, VOLUME I

LILA THE WEREWOLF AND OTHER STORIES

Brimming with magic, lyrical prose, and deeply felt emotion, this is, indeed, essential reading.

The first part of a two-volume retrospective from the author of The Last Unicorn (1968).

Volume 1, introduced by Jane Yolen, contains some of Beagle’s most classic stories, including “Come Lady Death,” in which a jaded British woman meets her match when she invites Death to her ball, and “Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros,” about a socially awkward academic’s relationship with a somewhat unusually presented and philosophically minded unicorn. “Lila the Werewolf” features the first appearance of Joe Farrell, the protagonist of Beagle’s novel The Folk of the Air (1986); fans of that book will be delighted to encounter Farrell in an additional story that takes place after the novel and features some interesting character growth on his part. The collection also contains the absolutely chilling “We Never Talk About My Brother,” the story of a news anchor with a secret and impossibly powerful control over the stories he reports, and the sweetly melancholy “Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel,” concerning a painter’s divinely compelling model. There are also whimsical works like “Gordon, the Self-Made Cat,” starring a mouse who refuses to accept that biology is destiny. Whether set in a fantastical landscape, the New York City of Beagle’s youth, or the invented northern California town of Avicenna, these are fables that explore how a brush with the uncanny can either change a life or simply spotlight what is already present. Magic is the lens through which the author shows us how fraught a mother-daughter relationship can be, how difficult it can be to let go of a dead friend or lover, and how a greater threat can unite two squabbling siblings. Delicate line drawings by artist Stephanie Law add a charming coda to each tale.

Brimming with magic, lyrical prose, and deeply felt emotion, this is, indeed, essential reading.

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9781616963880

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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IRON FLAME

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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