A page-turning, twisty, inventive addition to an addictive series that amply fulfills the promise of the previous book.

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ANGEL OF STORMS

From the Millennium's Rule series , Vol. 2

This second entry in the Millennium’s Rule fantasy series (Thief’s Magic, 2014) moves nimbly and authoritatively among magical worlds and ideas.

In long, alternating narrative sections, stories unfold of two people constrained and conflicted by difficult or harrowing circumstances. Although these intersect only rarely and obliquely, we come to trust that, singly or combined, they will assume critical importance at some juncture; Canavan does not disappoint. Artist Rielle Lazuli lives in a remote world so depleted in magic that attempting to use it is forbidden. Valhan, the godlike Angel of Storms, learns that Rielle actually creates new magic by exercising her creativity and offers her a place among similar artisans—but then inexplicably abandons her on a desert world. She’s rescued by the Travelers, interworld traders who reveal that the cruel and ruthless sorcerer who rules all the worlds, the Raen, has returned after a 20-year absence, during which many of the laws he imposed have been ignored. Raen and Angel are one and the same, the Travelers say—an assertion Rielle rejects. Meanwhile, Tyen Ironsmelter became an inventor and teacher at a school for magic, having fled his home world after refusing to surrender Vella, a woman magically turned into a book a millennium ago. When the Raen returns, Tyen’s new associates abandon the school and warn that Tyen must serve the Raen or be destroyed. Desperate, Tyen strikes a bargain: the Raen agrees to investigate how to restore Vella to human form; in exchange Tyen must spy on a rebel group seeking to overthrow the Raen. Though the characters possess no great personality or depth, the pace is relentless and culminates with a jaw-dropping trial of moral strength.

A page-turning, twisty, inventive addition to an addictive series that amply fulfills the promise of the previous book.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-20924-3

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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