A moderately promising entry that should find an audience.

THE UNSPOKEN NAME

Larkwood's debut, the first of a fantasy series, begins in familiar fashion as a warrior-maiden adventure and gradually develops into a love story.

In this imaginative but never fully convincing universe, places may be reached via magical gates leading through a maze of dead and dying worlds. Magic powers derive from a rare, innate ability combined with power vouchsafed by a patron god. Csorwe is of a hominin race that sports tusks—these are functionless and, unfortunately, impossible to visualize without thinking "piggish." In a narrative rendered in crisp, vivid prose, Csorwe serves the oracular shrine of a god—the Unspoken Name—but is destined soon to sacrifice herself. Then Sethennai, a wizard—his race has Spock ears—requesting a prophesy about the mysterious and powerful Reliquary of Pentravesse, offers her a choice: serve him and live, or marry the god and die. Csorwe chooses life and becomes Sethennai's ninja. The wizard, formerly the ruler of the city Tlaanthothe, needs her to help reclaim his position from a scheming rival. Later, during a quest to secure the Reliquary, she will clash with the Qarsazhi, imperial interworld extortionists, and their powerful young wizard Shuthmili, who's fated to be absorbed by their enforcement arm but, like Csorwe, never conceived other possibilities. Until this point, the story meanders, but finally the author finds a unique voice no longer dependent on boilerplate action, chases, escapes, torture, and fights. And when Csorwe and Shuthmili meet and fumble toward a relationship, we recognize heartfelt emotion, real substance, and an emergent theme: loyalties and the choices we make that engender them. These, along with the strong female leads, are solid foundations upon which to build.

A moderately promising entry that should find an audience.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-23890-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Tor

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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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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