A standard court fantasy, unique in its expansion on the story of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

DAUGHTER OF THE MOON GODDESS

Set against a background of Chinese mythology, a young woman resolves to save her mother from magical imprisonment.

Xingyin is the daughter of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, imprisoned on the moon for offending the Celestial Emperor. Xingyin’s very existence is a secret—as part of her punishment, Chang’e is to have no unsanctioned visitors. When Celestial soldiers almost discover her, Xingyin runs away, promising not to reveal her parentage and determined to reverse her mother’s punishment. Alone in the Celestial Kingdom, Xingyin has the remarkable good fortune of becoming Prince Liwei’s companion, attending his lessons and learning not only herbology and magic, but also the fighting arts. Xingyin and Liwei grow close, but as Liwei is the son of those responsible for Chang’e’s imprisonment, Xingyin must continually hide a part of herself. As Xingyin pursues her goals, others plot against the Celestial Kingdom, and the emperor and empress are not without their own machinations. Packed with magic, dragons, and plenty of scheming, this novel features many expected tropes, freshened up by the well-developed setting and strong basis in Chinese mythology. Xingyin is sometimes frustratingly successful and spends much more time with her male love interests than her female friends, but the plot delivers what it promises in a quite satisfying, though predictable manner. The prose is lovely and fluid, lush descriptions of magic and immortal life buoying the narrative.

A standard court fantasy, unique in its expansion on the story of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-303130-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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Lots of buzz after a seven-year hiatus, but even die-hard Outlander fans might need more action.

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GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE

The ninth book in Gabaldon’s Outlander series finds the Fraser family reunited in the midst of the American Revolution.

It’s 1779, and Claire and Jamie Fraser have found each other across time and space and are living peacefully in the American Colony of North Carolina. This novel opens with the mysterious return to Fraser’s Ridge of their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their children. In a previous book, Brianna’s family time-traveled to 20th-century America and planned to stay there permanently. It’s clear that Jamie and the others expect the troubles the family faced in the future will follow them to the past; unfortunately, after their return, the book pauses for several hundred pages of exposition. Gabaldon reintroduces characters, summarizes past events and tragedies, and introduces new characters. The text features not one but two family trees (the one in the back is updated to include the events of the book), and readers will need both to keep track of all the characters and relationships. The Outlander series has always been concerned with themes of time and place, and this novel contains intricate details and descriptions of daily life in Colonial America, clearly the result of countless hours of research. But Claire and Jamie have always been the major draw for readers. Now that they are grandparents, their love story is less epic and more tender, exploring the process of aging, the joys of family, and the longing for community and home. The last third is more plot-driven and action-packed, but the cliffhanger ending might leave readers feeling as if the book is just filler for the promised 10th installment.

Lots of buzz after a seven-year hiatus, but even die-hard Outlander fans might need more action.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-101-88568-0

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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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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