Pleasant “chosen one” YA fantasy, with little tension, a few bracing scenes, and a likable hero.

READ REVIEW

The Dark Dwarf Saga

REVELATION

In sibling authors Shaffer and Shaffer Kaminski’s debut novel, the first volume of a trilogy, a young dwarf with magical powers undertakes an important mission.

Although 50 years old, bookish dwarf Gavrin is a youth. At the requisite foretelling ceremony to determine his life path, Gavrin learns he is a mage, one of only three in existence. In the past, power-hungry Mezzarin, also a mage, abused his powers; although not dead, he has been asleep for hundreds of years. Another mage, wise Mellarin, is rumored to live in Northern Alzrith, far from Gavrin’s home of Sanctuary. Although Gavrin would rather remain with his mother, the beautiful Belvin, it is his mission to locate Mellarin, from whom he will receive valuable instruction in using his powers. Accompanying Gavrin on his journey are the brave warrior Thundermark, a son of King Meteormark; the human Brill, a sergeant in the King’s Army; the giant Karnik; and Palar, a somewhat reformed thief. In this first installment of three, characters are introduced along with some lore, including how Gavrin must find six valuable and powerful talismans in various locations throughout the land. This volume seems less a stand-alone book than a set of introductory chapters with an ending that suggests what’s to come. Thus far, the villains, although portrayed as self-interested and evil, don’t act particularly evil. Gavrin—an emotional and exceedingly decent fellow—vacillates between childlike and adult perspectives, as teens do. He’s given to weeping (even in passages that don’t seem to warrant it) and capable of mercy, as when he saves Palar from beheading; however, he and his companions abandon a treacherous bridge keeper to a cruel fate. The story, which seems best suited for tweens and younger, is clearly and simply told and evenly paced, with little violence or edge. That said, there are the occasional inspired moments; in particular, an encounter with a runaway dragon ends unexpectedly and humorously.

Pleasant “chosen one” YA fantasy, with little tension, a few bracing scenes, and a likable hero.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1495478703

Page Count: 168

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more