Startling, unremitting violence at a blistering pace, where who survives, wins.

THE ORDER OF THE SCALES

Third entry in the series (The King of the Crags, 2011, etc.), all of which previously appeared in the U.K., about telepathic dragons who after death are reborn with their memories intact.

These are not cute, lovable, compliant, Anne McCaffrey–like dragons, or wise, ancient, unfathomable, Le Guin–style dragons, but arrogant, cruel, savage, man-eating dragons, seething with rage and the urge to destroy. Other than that, almost everything going on here is mystifying if you haven't read the previous books, and perhaps even if you have. Human factions, led variously by Valmeyan, Zafir, Jehal and Hyrkallan, each as devious and merciless as the next, have conspired, plotted, betrayed and ambushed in order to seize the title of Speaker—whatever that entails. Intermittent hostilities have degenerated into all-out warfare, as warriors mounted on war-dragons contend for mastery of the skies, their dragons tamed and controlled by means of potions brewed by the alchemists. But now the potions have run out and a new generation of feral dragons has arisen, fully cognizant of their long slavery and thirsting for vengeance. So, much as they hate and despise each other, the factions must unite against this existential threat. Other elements in this ferociously explosive mix include Kithyr, a blood-mage hired to steal the dragon-slaying Adamantine Spear by the Picker, an Elemental Man and agent of the mysterious Taiytakei, a people from across the ocean; and the adventures of Kemir, a wandering mercenary who's somehow become attached to Snow, one of the awakened dragons. Both humans and dragons have personalities and obscure agendas. What they do is wildly unpredictable and always subordinate to sheer spectacle.

Startling, unremitting violence at a blistering pace, where who survives, wins.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-451-46437-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: ROC/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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