Facts, fantasy, and mysticism skillfully intertwine in a compelling tale with memorable characters.

VOYAGE OF THE WHITE BEAR

From the Flight of the Wren series , Vol. 2

This sequel offers a collection of Nordic historical adventures set during the 11th century.

Book 2 of Fox’s sweeping fictional epic, in which an assortment of personal quests gradually becomes woven together, opens in 1008 in Tønsberg, Norway, during an era of transition in the Scandinavian countries. Christianity is threatening to replace the beliefs and gods of the North. Olav Haraldsson, 13, one year short of adulthood, breaks loose from his training as a Viking warrior and heads off on his first spree of pillaging and plundering. He and his coterie of followers steal an old sailing vessel belonging to Lord Sigurd Syr, his benefactor and his mother’s fiance. When Lady Asta Gudbrandtsdotter learns of her son’s exploits, she consults Hekka, the Witch of Vestfold, whose magic she calls on to protect Olav. Meanwhile, Hilja of Kokolu, a young Healer from a tiny, ransacked village on the northern coast of Lapland, currently living with Hekka, decides to journey to the frigid terrain of the colonies in Greenland. Hilja hopes to find her mother and sister, kidnapped and sold into slavery many years ago by Norsemen. Able to communicate with the natural world, Hilja communes with a gull she calls Skeet. She sees what he sees, reads the winds, and observes the faces of people in far-off settlements as she searches for her family. Accompanying her as her protector is the formidable Laplander Agatha Rothskilde, trained as a warrior but prevented by her gender from fulfilling her dream. The development of friendship and mutual respect between the diminutive Hilja and the “Giantess” Agatha, so different in personality and upbringing, presents the most enjoyable, humorous episodes of this complex tale that includes voluminous plot threads. Fox provides enough grisly battle scenes to engage armchair adventurers and enough historical factoids about period lifestyles and political intrigue to satisfy those interested in Norse culture. In between are vivid ecological descriptions, romance, jealousy, and vengeance. Fortunately, the author supplies a cast of characters to help readers wade through the plethora of names and relationships.

Facts, fantasy, and mysticism skillfully intertwine in a compelling tale with memorable characters. (glossary, appendix)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2021

ISBN: 979-8-57-049747-4

Page Count: 487

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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A dark and devastating conclusion that transcends its roots in historical fact to examine brutal truths.

THE BURNING GOD

In the final installment of the Poppy War trilogy, a warrior shaman resolves to seize control of her homeland from enemies far and near, no matter the cost.

Having suffered severe losses and betrayals, Rin rallies the Southern Coalition in an effort to defeat the Mugenese troops still in Nikan, the president of the Nikara Republic, and the foreign menace of the Hesperians, with their almost unimaginably advanced technology. But a southern army is not enough, and Rin must also rely on the unpredictable powers of her wild god, the Phoenix, and form a risky alliance with the Trifecta that once ruled Nikan. Drawing heavily on 20th-century Chinese history, Kuang continues to explore familiar themes—including imperialism, racism, colorism, and the terrible and long-lasting effects of war—while deepening Rin’s portrayal, as Rin experiences moments of heartfelt sympathy and connection with others while also continually seeking power and succumbing over and over to her own hubris and paranoia. This installment dwells heavily on the devastating realities of war and the costs of leading a nation in crisis but does not sink into overly grotesque meditations—or perhaps we, along with Rin, have become desensitized and hardened. Ultimately, despite the epic scope of the plot, the novel hinges on the relationships between Rin and those closest to her: A nation may rise or fall and thousands may lose their homes or starve in the process, but their fate depends not on magic from the divine plane but on simple, fallible people.

A dark and devastating conclusion that transcends its roots in historical fact to examine brutal truths. (Map, Dramatis Personae)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266262-0

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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