THE DRAGON’S SON

First-novelist Thomson gives the legend of King Arthur a plausible historical setting in sixth-century Britain, but strips it of chivalry, magic, and romance. Four voices tell interrelated stories: Nimue, wife of the bard Myrddin, watches her husband cast away love, family, and honor to bring about his vision of a king who will unite the feuding chieftains against the marauding Saxons. Morgan, who witnesses her father’s murder and her mother’s rape by the thuggish Uther Pendragon, suppresses her lust for revenge to contract an incestuous marriage, until her bitterness proves stronger than her love. Luned, sharp-tongued handmaid to the emotionally fragile Lady Elen, pragmatically shepherds her mistress through two disastrous marriages. Finally, Medraud, Arthur’s nephew/son, raised incapable of affection or trust, destroys the kingdom to fill his own emptiness. Arthur himself is barely glimpsed as the golden sun around whom the others revolve, his warmth eclipsed by the foreboding atmosphere. Thomson paints a convincing portrayal of a grim, brutal age, and lays bare each character’s secrets with piercing clarity. But it’s hard to imagine who would enjoy visiting a Camelot so devoid of wonder, charm, and beauty, where every wedding leads to betrayal, all parents fail their children, and any hopes, ideals, or good intentions bear only poisoned fruit. Though Arthurian aficionados will derive satisfaction from spotting classic characters, those new to the stories will remain puzzled by their allure. So tainted is this Arthur’s reign that it’s a relief when he crumples bleeding to his doom. Vivid, sophisticated, but deeply, needlessly depressing. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-531-30333-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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