A conceptually dense installment that will likely satisfy fans of the series.

THE REVOLUTION AND THE FOX

From the Calatians series , Vol. 4

In Susman’s fourth fantasy-series entry, sorcerer Kip Penfold, an anthropomorphic fox, must save his new school during a revolutionary uprising.

It’s two years after the American Revolution of 1817, and Kip, the first nonhuman sorcerer, has founded a college for sorcery in East Georgia. Money is tight, however, and Kip and his colleagues don’t know if they’ll be able to keep the school open. Kip is one of the Calatians—a historically marginalized group of humanlike animals—and his school serves the local Calatian community. He suspects that some humans in the newly formed American government would be happy if the school failed. Along with his partner, Alice, and his friends Emily Carswell and Malcolm O’Brien, Kip sets off for the International Exposition of Sorcery in Amsterdam in the hope of procuring support for his college. He’s wary of the presence of his human nemesis, Victor Adamson, who’d like nothing better than to see Kip’s school go under. When some students Kip brought along start disappearing, however, he realizes that Victor’s plot to harness demonic magic is a threat to Calatians everywhere. To save his people, Kip won’t let anything stand in his way—not even a French revolution. Each chapter features a lovely black-and-white illustration by Garabedian, which serves as a point of entry for the reader’s imagination. Susman’s prose is smooth and even throughout: “Having a raven, Kip had discovered, was like having a very perceptive young child, and he’d learned to project calm and assurance even when (as now) he did not feel them naturally.” In addition to the normal Harry Potter–esque wizarding fare, Susman uses the setting to explore issues of intolerance toward women and minority groups. For those who haven’t read the previous books, the world of the Calatians is a lot to wrap one’s head around: an alternative history with humanoid animals, magic, and some complex domestic relationships. The plot is perhaps not quite compelling enough to warrant the amount of mythology the reader has to wade through, which makes it a troublesome starting point for newcomers.

A conceptually dense installment that will likely satisfy fans of the series.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61450-528-0

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Argyll Productions

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2020

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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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Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

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MEXICAN GOTHIC

Moreno-Garcia offers a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, set in 1950s Mexico.

Inquisitive 22-year-old socialite and anthropology enthusiast Noemí Taboada adores beautiful clothes and nights on the town in Mexico City with a bevy of handsome suitors, but her carefree existence is cut short when her father shows her a disturbing letter from her cousin Catalina, who recently married fair-haired and blue-eyed Virgil Doyle, who comes from a prominent English mining family that built their now-dwindling fortune on the backs of Indigenous laborers. Catalina lives in High Place, the Doyle family’s crumbling mansion near the former mining town of El Triunfo. In the letter, Catalina begs for Noemí’s help, claiming that she is “bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin,” and that High Place is “sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment.” Upon Noemí’s arrival at High Place, she’s struck by the Doyle family’s cool reception of her and their unabashed racism. She's alarmed by the once-vibrant Catalina’s listless state and by the enigmatic Virgil and his ancient, leering father, Howard. Nightmares, hallucinations, and phantasmagoric dreams of golden dust and fleshy bodies plague Noemí, and it becomes apparent that the Doyles haven’t left their blood-soaked legacy behind. Luckily, the brave Noemí is no delicate flower, and she’ll need all her wits about her for the battle ahead. Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.

Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-62078-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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