One seriously annoying flaw detracts from what otherwise is a stellar performance.

BLACK WOLVES

Elliott (Cold Steel, 2013 etc.) kicks off an intriguing new fantasy trilogy with—what else?—a doorstopper.

King Anjihosh now rules the land known as the Hundred, having wrested it away from fearsome demons (they are strong, all but unkillable, and have the ability to manipulate human memories) in battle. His elite troops, the Black Wolves, operate mostly in secret, and of these the most trusted is Capt. Kellas. Princess Dannarah dreams of becoming a reeve—royal scouts and messengers who pair-bond with and ride ferocious giant eagles—and resists being married off to cement a foreign alliance. But then her brother, Prince Atani, overhears something he shouldn’t have and runs away. Sent in pursuit, Kellas too learns more than is good for him. The narrative abruptly leaps 44 years into the future. Anjihosh is long dead. Kellas served his successor, Atani, until the latter was treacherously murdered, whereupon Kellas was retired in disgrace and the Wolves disbanded. Now, King Jehosh, fearing a power struggle with his mother, Queen Chorannah, recalls an old but still hale Kellas. Dannarah, once marshal of the reeves but deposed by Jehosh in favor of incompetent sycophants, and Kellas, united in their loyalty to the late Atani, trust the monarchs not at all—and the mystery of Atani’s death rankles. Sophisticated, multifaceted worldbuilding sparked by original flourishes, populated by characters we quickly come to care about and whose motivations drive intricate, absorbing conspiracies—the whole vehicle mired in the kind of ugly, messy structure designed largely to conceal what’s going on from readers and characters alike.

One seriously annoying flaw detracts from what otherwise is a stellar performance.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-36869-8

Page Count: 832

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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