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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A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

A DEADLY EDUCATION

From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12848-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A fast-paced plot packed with secrets makes this an enjoyable read in a slightly old-fashioned high-fantasy style.

CHILD OF LIGHT

A girl on the run must uncover the truth about her past in order to secure the future.

Auris has just broken out of a Goblin prison. If recaptured, she faces certain, gruesome death. She doesn’t know why Humans are penned up like animals, and she doesn’t know how she herself ended up in the prison. She remembers having parents who loved her, but not who they were or where they lived. All she knows is that she has to keep moving to stay alive. When she’s rescued by a strange young man with greenish skin who turns out to be Fae, she’s quickly drawn to him and to the beauty of the Faerie city he shows her. She yearns to belong somewhere, and why not in this beautiful city in the trees? But in order to win a place with the Fae, she must recover her lost memories of her own past and prove she’s not a danger to the community. The mystery of Auris’ past drives the plot forward, and secrets are revealed and new questions uncovered at an appealingly steady pace. Formal language, and the characters’ tendency to constantly and explicitly state how they feel (“His hand is stroking my hair and I let him continue for a moment, comforted by the feeling it provides”), keeps the reader at arm’s length. But Auris’ quest to understand herself and be accepted into a community is a compelling one.

A fast-paced plot packed with secrets makes this an enjoyable read in a slightly old-fashioned high-fantasy style.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-35738-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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