A satisfying installment of a YA adaptation of an ancient Indian epic.

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QUEEN OF THE ELEMENTS

From the The Sita's Fire Trilogy series , Vol. 2

Sheth (Shadows of the Sun Dynasty, 2016, etc.) focuses on the exploits of Rama in this second volume of the Sita’s Fire Trilogy.

In the continuation of her retelling of the Ramayana for YA readers, the author recounts the exile of the green-skinned Rama and his powerful wife, Sita, to the forest, away from the civilized lands of the Ayodhyans. The son of King Dasharatha, Rama was meant to ascend to the throne before Dasharatha’s wife, the devious Kaikeyi, engineered that the heir be banished for 14 years. With his new bride and his brother Lakshmana, Rama wanders in the wilderness. It is a time of adventure and growth for the hero: battling his perennial enemies, the blood-drinkers, and encountering wondrous creatures such as the giant Viradha, the vulture king Jatayu, and Shurpanakha, sister of the demon king Ravana. Rama gains the experience he will need if he is ever to fulfill his family’s prophecy: that a man of his line will be the one to finally kill Ravana, the 10-headed king of the blood-drinkers (“Every son of the Sun dynasty since Anaranya felt the burden of those words: would he be the one to do the unimaginable and slay Ravana?”). With Sita by his side, Rama feels prepared to meet any challenge. If he were to lose her, however, his destiny might be forever altered, and this is a fact that has not escaped Ravana’s notice. Accompanied by the delightful full-color illustrations of Johansson, this installment of Sheth’s trilogy replicates the immersive world enjoyed by readers in the previous volume. The author adeptly fleshes these ancient mythological figures into rounded, relatable characters who feel as human as any other in contemporary YA fantasy. Sita, with her complex emotions and conflicted history, is an especially compelling personality, and Sheth gives her ample page time to tell her story in her own words. Whether readers are familiar with the Ramayana—an Indian epic that has been popular throughout South Asia and beyond for centuries—or they are discovering these characters for the first time, the novel delivers time-tested stories playing out against a distinctive fantasy world.

A satisfying installment of a YA adaptation of an ancient Indian epic.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60887-660-0

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Mandala Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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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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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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