A consummate blend of folklore, magic, history and storytelling, this book is sensual, culturally literate and perfectly...

FIREBIRD

Toothsome fantasy set in a medieval Russia analogue, from Robertson (White Rose, 2004, etc.).

Young orphan Aria, slave of the Bone Witch, roams the vast wild woods of Markovy and, with her protective rune and invisibility spell, fears no leopard, troll-bear or lycanthrope. One day she sees Byeli Zamak castle burning, and soon a knight flees into the wood bearing the Firebird’s Egg. Aria decides to help the handsome, kindly knight, a Gascon exile named Sir Roye de Roye, who held the castle for the infant Prince Ivan until overwhelmed by the forces of Grand Duke Sergey, Ivan’s ambitious uncle. The late king Demitri stole the magical Egg, thus inviting a curse upon the land. Aria hides Sir Roye, tends his wounds and feeds him, but Prince Sergey’s lycanthrope tracks her easily. Sergey’s troops kill the Bone Witch despite her magic and force Aria to lead them to Sir Roye; the latter agrees to yield the Egg in exchange for Aria. Sergey immediately revokes his bargain, only to be killed by a leopard—the Bone Witch herself—while Sir Roye disposes of the remaining troops. The Witch charges Aria with returning the Firebird’s Egg to its nest atop Burning Mountain deep inside the Iron Wood. Meanwhile, Tartars are pressing against Markovy’s eastern borders, though Markovy’s petulant clans are too arrogant and absorbed with internecine quarrels to pay much heed. A Tartar shaman forces Prince Sergey’s corpse to reveal the significance of the Firebird’s Egg; and so Aria and Sir Roye set forth with both angry Markovites and ruthless Tartars on their trail. And all this is just the beginning of an astonishing series of adventures for willful Aria and her brave knight.

A consummate blend of folklore, magic, history and storytelling, this book is sensual, culturally literate and perfectly pitched.

Pub Date: May 16, 2006

ISBN: 0-765-31356-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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