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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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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Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

GIDEON THE NINTH

From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 1

This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery.

Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition...and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences.

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31319-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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