A terrifically entertaining, complex, and original fantasy.

THE LAST LUMENIAN

A rebellious princess discovers magical abilities that help her take on a powerful enemy in this debut fantasy.

As the king’s daughter, 17-year-old Ma’hana Lilla of the planet Uhna is expected to obey. But Lilla strongly disagrees with her father’s policies, which keep refugees imprisoned in squalid camps even though Uhna is immensely wealthy thanks to mastering technology that’s combined with elemental magic. Lilla joins the rebellion, but events become complicated when Callum a’ruun, a general with the Teryn Praelium, arrives with a delegation. They’re seeking assistance from the 19 worlds of the Pax Septum Coalition, which Uhna leads. Although the Archgoddess of the Eternal Light and Order prevailed last time in the era wars, the Archgod of Chaos and Destruction is again gathering an army of corrupt fiends and servants. Besides politics, Lilla struggles with panic disorder, grief over her mother’s early death, and alarm over the control her new, young stepmother wields over the king. Callum is both irritating and attractive, complicating Lilla’s relationship with Arrov, a pilot who’s joined the rebellion. But all these local and personal difficulties pale beside the undeniable call of Lilla’s true nature, her untapped magical abilities, and her essential role in combating the Archgod. In her novel, Blaise deftly blends Lilla’s approachable, young present-tense voice with sophisticated worldbuilding, seen even in minor details. For example, guards still wear cutlasses because Uhna was founded by pirates, and Lilla’s island home is reflected in her favorite expletive: “Buckets of fishguts!” The plot’s many disparate ingredients—romance, war, politics, magic, technology, family tensions, theology, psychology—meld in a deliciously hearty bouillabaisse, helped by intelligent exposition, surprising revelations, believable conflicts, and strong character development. Everything builds to an exciting, dramatic, and satisfying conclusion.

A terrifically entertaining, complex, and original fantasy. (glossary)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73476-050-7

Page Count: 327

Publisher: Lilac Grove Entertainment

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2020

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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