An entertaining, if occasionally uneven, fantasy tale about a parallel Earth and the strange creatures therein.

VLOGENTIA

A TALE OF SECOND WORLD

In this fantasy novel, a king in an alternate universe plans to conquer an entire realm, and he kidnaps people from our Earth to do it.

Sixty-five million years ago, a comet crashed into Earth, resulting in mass extinction—and the opening of a gateway to a parallel universe. Later, in 1585, Father Sebastian Vlogentia Garcia Lopez leads residents of his village to a small island to hide from Spanish inquisitors. As they explore their new hiding place, Father Sebastian stumbles upon a glowing, floating orb, which transports him to an entirely new world. He soon realizes that he’s found a place that could be truly safe for his villagers. Years later, in the Second World’s kingdom of Vlogentia, founded by Father Sebastian, a woman named Bianca celebrates the new year by spending time with her boyfriend and taking part in a sport before an audience of thousands of spectators; then one of her teammates leads her to a group of kidnappers. Back on our Earth, Jason Blankenship and his wife, Margaret,are taking a trip to investigate a new job offer. Before long, they’re abducted, as well, taken to an island in the middle of nowhere, and sent through the portal to Vlogentia. Now Jason is being forced to help his kidnappers create a poison—which is just one step in the king’s plan to take over all of the Second World. Now Bianca, Jason, and Margaret must work together to escape their captors and foil the plot. Over the course of this fantasy novel, Somers offers an often engaging, if uneven, tale of two worlds coming together. The author appears to have done his research when it comes to aspects of Mayan and Mesoamerican culture and how they permeate the architecture and culture of Vlogentia, which is an impressively addition to the overall worldbuilding; he also includes several appendices regarding these elements at the back of the book. However, some of the dialogue leaves something to be desired; for example, Jason’s kidnapper often speaks like a bad movie villain, as when he advises his cohorts to “do your destructive best.”

An entertaining, if occasionally uneven, fantasy tale about a parallel Earth and the strange creatures therein.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73578-790-9

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2021

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A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

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KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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