A brilliant and nicely off-kilter reading of the children’s classic, retrofitted for grown-ups—and a lot of fun.

AFTER ALICE

Alice doesn’t live here anymore—and Maguire (Egg & Spoon, 2014, etc.) has great fun upending the furniture to find out where’s she gone.

Continuing his tradition of rewriting fairy tales with an arch eye and offbeat point of view, Maguire turns his attention to Lewis Carroll and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice has dropped down the rabbit hole—“again,” sighs an exasperated governess, one of the story’s many bêtes noires—and now her best friend and confidante, Ada Boyce, is falling in after her, looking to bring our young Persephone, or perhaps Eurydice, back into the light. Well, of course, Ada finds all sorts of curiouser and curiouser things down below, from hookah-smoking caterpillars to mad hatters and pince-nez–sporting sheep, with Carroll’s original cast of characters plus a few of Maguire’s own imagining. Up on Earth, Maguire populates the scene with all kinds of folks from real life, among them Walter Pater, Charles Darwin, and various members of the British royal family, who fuss about doing serious and real-world things—including, in a nice, smart closing turn, a meditation on the evolutionary qualities of, yes, the imagination. Not that Alice and Ada aren’t (weren’t, that is) real, but Maguire leaves it to them, mostly, to enjoy the wackiness of the underworld and for the grown-ups to do the pondering. Still, some of the slyest moments come when the two worlds collide: “I have always heard that Queen Victoria was moderate in her tastes,” says Ada, confused at a subterranean knight’s alarm that the queen is likely to have their heads. And there’s no end to sinister possibilities along with the usual charming Alice storyline—after all, Lewis Carroll didn’t inscribe the entrance to Wonderland’s tiny door with the words out of Dante, “All ye who enter here, abandon hope.”

A brilliant and nicely off-kilter reading of the children’s classic, retrofitted for grown-ups—and a lot of fun.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-054895-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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