Satisfying on all levels of the reading experience: thrilling, emotionally resonant, and cerebral. Escape to Witch Mountain...

MIDDLEGAME

The product of a long-running alchemical experiment, twins Roger and Dodger struggle to understand their unique circumstances and gain control over them.

In the late 19th century, ambitious young alchemist Asphodel Baker tried to rewrite reality to create a better world. She set in motion a long-range plan to incarnate the alchemical Doctrine of Ethos, encoding her scheme in a series of children’s books destined to become classics. In the present day, the considerably more ruthless James Reed, who is her creation and her killer, breeds twins designed to each incarnate half of the Doctrine; once they have fully matured, united, and manifested as “the living force that holds the universe together,” he will seize their power to control everything. Failed experiments are terminated. Roger Middleton, brilliant with languages, develops a strange telepathic connection with Dodger Cheswich, a math genius living across the country from him. Despite all of Reed’s brutal and covert efforts to keep the pair apart so their abilities will flower fully, they cannot help re-encountering each other and then separating in the wake of tragedy. Their attempts to avoid becoming one of Reed’s failures force them to draw upon their more arcane powers: Roger can persuade people—and reality itself—to bend to his wishes, while Dodger can actually reverse time back to a certain fixed point. With the help of Erin, the living incarnation of Order, they must craft the timeline that allows them to survive long enough to realize their potential. Books that include magic range across a spectrum that puts rules-based, logical magic on one end and serendipitous magic with no obvious cause or structure on the other. This book falls intriguingly far on the logic end; with its experiments and protocols, it redefines what is typically meant by science fantasy. If there’s a flaw in McGuire's (That Ain’t Witchcraft, 2019, etc.) gripping story, it’s that it isn't clear how Reed could really gain complete control over the Doctrine long term, nor why Reed’s followers actually believe that he would cede any of the Doctrine’s power were he to gain it.

Satisfying on all levels of the reading experience: thrilling, emotionally resonant, and cerebral. Escape to Witch Mountain for grown-ups.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-19552-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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

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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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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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