A standard court fantasy, unique in its expansion on the story of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

DAUGHTER OF THE MOON GODDESS

Set against a background of Chinese mythology, a young woman resolves to save her mother from magical imprisonment.

Xingyin is the daughter of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, imprisoned on the moon for offending the Celestial Emperor. Xingyin’s very existence is a secret—as part of her punishment, Chang’e is to have no unsanctioned visitors. When Celestial soldiers almost discover her, Xingyin runs away, promising not to reveal her parentage and determined to reverse her mother’s punishment. Alone in the Celestial Kingdom, Xingyin has the remarkable good fortune of becoming Prince Liwei’s companion, attending his lessons and learning not only herbology and magic, but also the fighting arts. Xingyin and Liwei grow close, but as Liwei is the son of those responsible for Chang’e’s imprisonment, Xingyin must continually hide a part of herself. As Xingyin pursues her goals, others plot against the Celestial Kingdom, and the emperor and empress are not without their own machinations. Packed with magic, dragons, and plenty of scheming, this novel features many expected tropes, freshened up by the well-developed setting and strong basis in Chinese mythology. Xingyin is sometimes frustratingly successful and spends much more time with her male love interests than her female friends, but the plot delivers what it promises in a quite satisfying, though predictable manner. The prose is lovely and fluid, lush descriptions of magic and immortal life buoying the narrative.

A standard court fantasy, unique in its expansion on the story of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-303130-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A well-constructed prelude to what promises to be an interesting series.

THE ATLAS SIX

Dangerous intrigues and deadly secrets swirl around six ambitious young magicians competing for entry into a secret society.

In a world very much like our own, except that a certain percentage of humanity is born with magical powers, six extraordinarily gifted people in their 20s are invited to train for membership in the Alexandrian Society, which has carefully and somewhat surreptitiously preserved centuries of priceless knowledge since the (apparent) burning of the Library of Alexandria. At the end of one year, five of the six will be initiated into the Society, and the reader won’t be surprised to learn that the sixth person isn’t allowed to quietly return home. As the year advances, the candidates explore the limits of their unique powers and shift their alliances, facing threats and manipulations from both within and outside of their circle. For most of its length, the book appears to be a well-written but not especially revolutionary latecomer to the post–Harry Potter collection of novels featuring a darker and more cynical approach to magical education; these books include Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars, Marina and Sergey Dyachenko’s Vita Nostra, and Lev Grossman’s Magicians series. Blake also offers a significant dash of the older subgenre of students joining a mystical cult requiring a sacrifice, as in Elizabeth Hand’s Waking the Moon and Robert Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls. The character-building is intense and intriguing—such an interior deep dive is practically de rigueur for a story of this type, which depends on self-discovery—but the plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere surprising. Then, the book's climax devastatingly reveals that Blake was holding her cards close to the vest all along, delicately hinting at a wider plot which only opens up fully—or almost fully—at the end, when it shoves the reader off a cliff to wait for the next book.

A well-constructed prelude to what promises to be an interesting series.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-85451-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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A marvelous plunge into a beautifully crafted adventure.

THE STARDUST THIEF

This debut quest fantasy is the first of a trilogy concerning the revival of an ancient struggle between humans and jinn.

Years ago, assassins in black murdered all of Loulie al-Nazari’s tribe; unaccountably, a wandering jinn named Qadir took her under his protection, posing as her human bodyguard. Today, Loulie hides behind the identity of the Midnight Merchant, locating and selling illegal magical relics. But now the sultan of Madinne has found her out and is forcing her to go on a dangerous desert quest to find the most ancient relic of them all—a lamp imprisoning an enslaved but incredibly powerful jinn—which he intends to use to commit jinn genocide. Along with Qadir, her designated companions are the sultan’s cruel older son, Prince Omar, who rules the deadly band of jinn hunters known as the Forty Thieves, and Omar’s most trusted thief, Aisha. Except that the prince on this journey is actually Omar’s younger brother Prince Mazen, a softhearted and sheltered storyteller whom Omar has blackmailed into taking his place with a magical disguise. Aisha also has her own mission from Omar, which she cannot share. Burdened with secrets, this unlikely quartet encounter many perils while learning new and deadly things about the nature of jinn and of themselves. Several recent Middle Eastern fantasies have explored the complex and bloody relationship between human and jinn (with obvious relevance to contemporary sociopolitics), each in a gloriously unique way. This one offers brief but clever nods to such classic tales from One Thousand and One Nights as “Aladdin,” “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and the framing tale of Scheherazade, but then charts its own thrilling territory. Not only is the story exciting (although at least some of Omar’s plot will be obvious from early on), but the characterization and growth of the three human questers—and to a certain extent, the jinn Qadir—are extremely strong; all are driven to question everything they thought they knew and to consider whether that new knowledge will change their course of action.

A marvelous plunge into a beautifully crafted adventure.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-36876-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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