Dramatic, fun, thoughtful, clever, and (literally) punchy.

THE ART OF PROPHECY

A prophecy is unexpectedly foiled and a chosen hero cast adrift in this first of a fantasy trilogy inspired by Chinese martial arts films.

Elderly, one-armed, but still incredibly able war artist Ling Taishi is invited to view the progress of the Champion of the Five Under Heaven, prophesied to be the doom of the Eternal Khan, foe of the Zhuun Empire. Taishi discovers that the so-called hero, Wen Jian, is a poorly trained spoiled brat; nevertheless, she sees some potential in him and resolves to train the boy herself. Then a Zhuun foot patrol blunders into the naked, profoundly drunk Khan and kills him themselves, turning Jian into a political liability and forcing the new master-disciple team to go on the run. Under an assumed name, Jian toils resentfully as a novice and servant at a war artist school; Taishi dodges assassins and searches for the temple where the prophecy was made to learn how and why it failed. Meanwhile, Salminde, an elite warrior and close friend of the late Khan, looks first for her sister and then for some way of helping her people, forced into indentured servitude in the aftermath of the Khan’s death. Author Chu uses his knowledge and experience as a martial artist, stuntman, and actor to craft an exceptionally easy-to-visualize work with expertly blocked fight sequences; it’s impossible not to picture how everything would look on screen (of course, the trilogy has already been optioned for television). This novel is squarely directed at kung fu, wuxia, and wire-fu fans who adore Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Hero; The Legend of Drunken Master; Kung Fu Hustle, and the like, providing a story with an epic sweep punctuated with dashes of humor and sharp-edged banter. Although Jian provides the initial spark for the plot, the novel is marvelously dominated by strong women, including the hot-tempered and fierce Taishi, who occasionally learns that rudeness is not always the best policy; the passionate, grieving Salminde, searching for meaning after her world has ended; and the mercurial, psychopathic shadow assassin Maza Qisami.

Dramatic, fun, thoughtful, clever, and (literally) punchy.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-23763-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A smutfest of epic proportions.

COURT OF THE VAMPIRE QUEEN

A woman who's half human and half vampire is offered as a sacrifice to a trio of powerful vampires in this dark, erotic paranormal romance.

Mina's father, Cornelius, is the head of one of seven powerful vampire bloodlines. His goal is to restore the vampires to their rightful place at the top of the food chain, and he needs more progeny and bloodlines under his control to enact his plans. He has no fond feelings for his dhampir daughter, as half-vampire, half-humans are known. She possesses neither the godly strength of his kind nor the magical affinity that humans have, so he sends her off to be a sacrifice to Malachi, a vampire of another bloodline. Confined to a Gothic mansion, Malachi knows why Mina was sent to him. Her father hopes he’ll either kill her or impregnate her, adding the heir of Malachi's bloodline to his own. Malachi's home quickly becomes more crowded as Wolf and Rylan, two other vampires from his past, arrive. All three take an interest in Mina, whose blood tastes different than other dhampirs’, and they begin to unravel Mina's mysterious heritage and the deadly power play in which her father has involved them. Readers unaccustomed to dark romances may want to steer clear of this one, as there is dubious consent and graphically described violence. The sex is steamy, a nonstop carousel that sometime buries the plot. For a mindless sexual romp with seductive vampires and a woman who begins to recognize her own worth, it can be a fun read, though seeing women used as political pawns and broodmares can be distasteful, especially now.

A smutfest of epic proportions.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72826-469-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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