A rich, immersive narrative founded on impeccable scholarship.

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THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM

Second in Pike’s trilogy about ethnic, political, and religious strife in sixth-century Celtic Britain.

Pike’s intent in this trilogy, as expressed in her exhaustive author’s note, is twofold: to reconstruct a factual basis for Arthurian legend and to shed more light on Languoreth, a queen who was outshone in history by her brother Lailoken, later known as Myrddin—or Merlin. The action covers the period from 572 to 580 C.E. Languoreth is the wife of Rhydderch, heir apparent to King Tutgual, and her brother is a Wisdom Keeper and a warrior in Uther Pendragon’s Dragon Warriors. War ignites as Tutgual’s forces, led by Rhydderch in alliance with the depraved pedophile Gwrgi, march on the Dragons. Because of her brother’s affiliations, Languoreth endures house arrest in Tutgual’s hall despite the fact that her oldest son, Rhys, is fighting on Tutgual’s side and the fact that her mother-in-law, Queen Elufed, (a Pict, which will prove significant later) is her ally. The third protagonist here is Angharad, 9-year-old daughter of Languoreth and Rhydderch. The child accompanies the Dragons to their stronghold to further her training as a Wisdom Keeper, but she is caught up in a siege. After the Dragons’ defeat in a catastrophic battle, the three principals disperse along separate paths. Lailoken goes into exile, Angharad falls in with Picts and priestesses, and, as her husband’s political fortunes increase, Languoreth seems to resign herself to her marriage of convenience. Artur (Arthur) is introduced as a minor character. With its plethora of information on the ethnicities, languages, and geography of post-Roman Britain, this novel might risk having only niche appeal if it weren't for the propulsive plot and flawed humanity of its characters. Invading Germanic Angles will sorely test the Celts’ always questionable ability to unify in defense. Pike continues to elucidate the feminist struggles of the matriarchal Old Way against encroaching patriarchal Christianity. Languoreth’s role remains diminished, less by Lailoken than by the constraints imposed on women by noblesse oblige.

A rich, immersive narrative founded on impeccable scholarship.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9145-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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