A bold setup for a blood-bathed new series of epic fantasy.


From the The Five Queendoms series

Five nations ruled by women are sent into free fall when, for decades, only boys are born in this novel of magic, might, and intrigue.

As the Drought of Girls rages across the Five Queendoms, fingers begin to point. In Scorpica, the warrior queendom, the Barren Queen worries that her people will turn on her only daughter, the last in the nation to be born before the Drought began. Suspicion swirls among the mages of Arca and the priests of Sestia, any one of whom could have angered their patron deities and provoked this punishment. Even if that were so, Bastion, the queendom of scribes, should have noticed the lack of girl births in its recordings. Can the peacemakers of Paxim continue to broker goodwill now, knowing that any of the other nations may fall at a moment's notice? Macallister weaves her way through the women with the most to lose in the pending collapse of civilization as they know it. As Queen Mirriam of Arca worries that the Drought will deprive her of the magical energy she needs to continue her unnaturally long life, a healer flees Arca with her too-powerful daughter to protect her from the old monarch's watchful eyes. After two exiles—a rightful heir and the woman honor-bound to protect her—flee Scorpica, the freshly crowned Queen Tamura hatches a plan to maintain the size of her country's standing army. And somewhere on an unremarkable coast, an ancient but not-quite-forgotten sorceress weaves together plans for a coup no queendom will see coming. As these women and girls cobble together new lives in the throes of a worldwide curse, readers will begin to see the set pieces of a sequel fall into place. Although Macallister's final cliffhanger may feel unsatisfying to those who want tidy answers to their burning questions, the promise of a continuing story will be enough for many fantasy fans.

A bold setup for a blood-bathed new series of epic fantasy.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-6789-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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


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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