Like a weary yet exultant marathon runner: wraps itself in a flag, totters across the finish line, and crumples in a heap.

THE LAST DRUID

The chronological conclusion to both the four-book Fall of Shannara miniseries and the entire Shannara oeuvre established in 1977.

What began as a standard sword-and-sorcery universe has morphed into one where magic and technology coexist, where heroes zoom around in airships powered by something akin to dilithium crystals yet still fight with swords and blast each other with magic. Here, the Four Lands face destruction by the warlike Skaar, invaders driven from their home by climate change. Four groups with dominant female leads operate largely independently and often without reference to the plot's main thrust. Tarsha Kaynin, schooled in wishsong magic by the druid Drisker Arc, faces a showdown battle with the evil witch Clizia Porse. The witch has hurled Drisker into a demon-infested realm from which there's no escape, where he discovers Grianne Ohmsford, an old acquaintance, a long-term prisoner. Young Belladrin Rish, a clandestine Skaar agent working to subvert the Four Lands’ defenses, begins to doubt her mission. And Skaar princess Ajin D'Amphere, now collaborating with warrior Dar Leah and friends, heads toward Skaarland with, just possibly, a technological solution to the climate problem. Familiar Brooks strengths—courage, perseverance, loyalty, and so forth—are prominent, yet it's hard to ignore the underlying exhaustion. Things happen randomly, so the narrative strands never quite cohere into a single satisfying package; events readers might have anticipated from the previous volumes fail to materialize. Brooks' style is easy and undemanding. His characters often resemble fantasy archetypes yet possess just enough individuality to avoid skepticism; plots seldom stray far from boilerplate. His greatest appeal has been to youth, and recent attempts to inject mature themes such as sexual violence have not been a success. As he has pretty much throughout the entire Shannara cosmos, Brooks takes his departure with the contention that science and magic are flip sides of the same coin. They're not. Science works for anybody. Magic works only if you have the gift.

Like a weary yet exultant marathon runner: wraps itself in a flag, totters across the finish line, and crumples in a heap.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-17854-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A well-constructed prelude to what promises to be an interesting series.

THE ATLAS SIX

Dangerous intrigues and deadly secrets swirl around six ambitious young magicians competing for entry into a secret society.

In a world very much like our own, except that a certain percentage of humanity is born with magical powers, six extraordinarily gifted people in their 20s are invited to train for membership in the Alexandrian Society, which has carefully and somewhat surreptitiously preserved centuries of priceless knowledge since the (apparent) burning of the Library of Alexandria. At the end of one year, five of the six will be initiated into the Society, and the reader won’t be surprised to learn that the sixth person isn’t allowed to quietly return home. As the year advances, the candidates explore the limits of their unique powers and shift their alliances, facing threats and manipulations from both within and outside of their circle. For most of its length, the book appears to be a well-written but not especially revolutionary latecomer to the post–Harry Potter collection of novels featuring a darker and more cynical approach to magical education; these books include Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars, Marina and Sergey Dyachenko’s Vita Nostra, and Lev Grossman’s Magicians series. Blake also offers a significant dash of the older subgenre of students joining a mystical cult requiring a sacrifice, as in Elizabeth Hand’s Waking the Moon and Robert Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls. The character-building is intense and intriguing—such an interior deep dive is practically de rigueur for a story of this type, which depends on self-discovery—but the plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere surprising. Then, the book's climax devastatingly reveals that Blake was holding her cards close to the vest all along, delicately hinting at a wider plot which only opens up fully—or almost fully—at the end, when it shoves the reader off a cliff to wait for the next book.

A well-constructed prelude to what promises to be an interesting series.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-85451-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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