Highly impressive and exceptionally promising.

READ REVIEW

THE CITY OF BRASS

A rich Middle Eastern fantasy, the first of a trilogy: Chakraborty’s intriguing debut.

On the streets of 18th-century Cairo, young Nahri—she has a real talent for medicine but lacks the wherewithal to acquire proper training—makes a living swindling Ottoman nobles by pretending to wield supernatural powers she doesn’t believe in. Then, during a supposed exorcism, she somehow summons a mysterious djinn warrior named Dara, whose magic is both real and incomprehensibly powerful. Dara insists that Nahri is no longer safe—evil djinn threaten her life, so he must convey her to Daevabad, a legendary eastern city protected by impervious magical brass walls. During the hair-raising journey by flying carpet, Nahri meets spirits and monsters and develops feelings for Dara, a deeply conflicted being with a long, tangled past. At Daevabad she’s astonished to learn that she’s the daughter of a legendary healer of the Nahid family. All the more surprising, then, that King Ghassan, whose ancestor overthrew the ruling Nahid Council and stole Suleiman’s seal, which nullifies magic, welcomes her. With Ghassan’s younger son, Prince Ali, Nahri becomes immersed in the city’s deeply divisive (and not infrequently confusing) religious, political, and racial tensions. Meanwhile, Dara’s emerging history and personality grow more and more bewildering and ambiguous. Against this syncretic yet nonderivative and totally credible backdrop, Chakraborty has constructed a compelling yarn of personal ambition, power politics, racial and religious tensions, strange magics, and terrifying creatures, culminating in a cataclysmic showdown that few readers will anticipate. The expected first-novel flaws—a few character inconsistencies, plot swirls that peter out, the odd patch where the author assumes facts not in evidence—matter little. Best of all, the narrative feels rounded and complete yet poised to deliver still more.

Highly impressive and exceptionally promising.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-267810-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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

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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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Our Verdict

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  • Booker Prize Winner

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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