A quick-moving, somewhat messy fantasy novel about a secret world of sorcerers.

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MAGES RISING

A Canadian mage is sucked into an interdimensional magic war in Stillitano’s debut fantasy novel.

There is a civil war going on in the clandestine community of mages, one that has spilled over into the world of “terrians”—that is, humans. The Revolution wishes for mages to reveal themselves to the public, topple the Earth’s governments, and place themselves at the head of a new world order. The Resistance acknowledges that things need to change but wants it to happen peacefully. The fighting hasn’t reached Montreal yet, but when it does, Lyria, a mage who operates a small, cozy cafe, is afraid she’ll be forced to choose a side. After a painful breakup with her boyfriend, Julio, and haunted by a dream of a mage calling to her from the dreaded Wastelands, Lyria decides to take a much-needed vacation to Cuba. Julio, a member of the Brethren of Sorcerers and a researcher whose discovery sparked the Revolution, is frustrated to have lost Lyria—after all, he was counting on recruiting her to his cause. The Revolution’s goal is to resurrect the “archaic magic” of 500 years ago, thus enabling mages to return to their full potential powers. Little does Lyria know that, more than simply being forced to choose a side, she will be central to the conflict that is about to come, and it will not be limited to her own reality. Stillitano’s prose is urgent and pulpy: “Lyria paced back and forth and tried to clear her mind, to figure out what had just happened. How could she have let herself get dragged into an alternate plane, and how had she not realized it? There had to be another explanation—but really, this was the only logical answer.” The characters are all a little flat, unfortunately, and their dialogue and emotional maturity are reminiscent of teens more than the adults they are supposed to be. The plot is fast-paced, however, and Stillitano unfurls her world with confidence (even if it is built mostly of common fantasy tropes). Those who love urban fantasy will likely enjoy this tale that, if not revolutionary, gets the job done.

A quick-moving, somewhat messy fantasy novel about a secret world of sorcerers.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 311

Publisher: DartFrog Books

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2020

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Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.

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SEVERANCE

A post-apocalyptic—and pre-apocalyptic—debut.

It’s 2011, if not quite the 2011 you remember. Candace Chen is a millennial living in Manhattan. She doesn’t love her job as a production assistant—she helps publishers make specialty Bibles—but it’s a steady paycheck. Her boyfriend wants to leave the city and his own mindless job. She doesn’t go with him, so she’s in the city when Shen Fever strikes. Victims don’t die immediately. Instead, they slide into a mechanical existence in which they repeat the same mundane actions over and over. These zombies aren’t out hunting humans; instead, they perform a single habit from life until their bodies fall apart. Retail workers fold and refold T-shirts. Women set the table for dinner over and over again. A handful of people seem to be immune, though, and Candace joins a group of survivors. The connection between existence before the End and during the time that comes after is not hard to see. The fevered aren’t all that different from the factory workers who produce Bibles for Candace’s company. Indeed, one of the projects she works on almost falls apart because it proves hard to source cheap semiprecious stones; Candace is only able to complete the contract because she finds a Chinese company that doesn’t mind too much if its workers die from lung disease. This is a biting indictment of late-stage capitalism and a chilling vision of what comes after, but that doesn’t mean it’s a Marxist screed or a dry Hobbesian thought experiment. This is Ma’s first novel, but her fiction has appeared in distinguished journals, and she won a prize for a chapter of this book. She knows her craft, and it shows. Candace is great, a wonderful mix of vulnerability, wry humor, and steely strength. She’s sufficiently self-aware to see the parallels between her life before the End and the pathology of Shen Fever. Ma also offers lovely meditations on memory and the immigrant experience.

Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-26159-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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