A complex and expansive fantasy with strong characters.

AFTER THE STARS APPEARED

A LIZARD QUEEN TALE

In this companion novel to a fantasy series, a brave warrior must navigate a strange, new world.

Uyazani is a soldier. Or she was before the stars appeared. One moment she is “in the great room of a castle belonging to the mythical (or so she’d thought at the time) Lizard Queen,” and then she and 35 other soldiers are “in the throne room of the palace none of them had ever seen or heard of before.” In an instant, they change worlds and enter a peculiar realm with stars and a moon with different phases. Uyazani observes: “The world before, the one I come from, had no stars in the night sky and the moon was always round.” Some of the soldiers immediately flee; others kill themselves. Uyazani neither runs nor hurts herself. She serves the White Queen as her Deputy Shadowcrown, tracking down the fugitives. But the soldiers she brings back are executed, and Uyazani no longer wishes to fulfill her duties. There’s a historian she’s heard of, a man named Madu, who opened a portal. If she’s going to return home, she needs him. But when she discovers Madu, she finds an addict who barely remembers anything. And Uyazani isn’t the only one searching for him. While this story is a companion piece to Cherryholmes’ Lizard Queenseries, readers do not need to be familiar with those volumes. The author does an excellent job of worldbuilding in this work. The tale’s elements feel complete. On the first page, readers are introduced to the odd world’s geography and important landmarks: the Lower; Queensperch in the Upper; and the High Palace in Queensperch. Because these places are real to Uyazani (albeit loathed), they are real to readers. Cherryholmes also keeps his well-developed characters acting authentically in this realm. The author makes smart decisions to slow down and consider small actions: Uyazani “took out the pad she kept in her outer jacket pocket along with a fat stubby pencil that she didn’t plan on using and wasn’t in need of sharpening. Even so, she produced a flip knife from a trouser pocket, flipped it open, and put a fine point on the lead.” This story will work best for readers willing to keep up with a fantasy world’s jargon at times, though the language never becomes overwhelming.

A complex and expansive fantasy with strong characters.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-65-491992-2

Page Count: 299

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2021

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A dark and devastating conclusion that transcends its roots in historical fact to examine brutal truths.

THE BURNING GOD

In the final installment of the Poppy War trilogy, a warrior shaman resolves to seize control of her homeland from enemies far and near, no matter the cost.

Having suffered severe losses and betrayals, Rin rallies the Southern Coalition in an effort to defeat the Mugenese troops still in Nikan, the president of the Nikara Republic, and the foreign menace of the Hesperians, with their almost unimaginably advanced technology. But a southern army is not enough, and Rin must also rely on the unpredictable powers of her wild god, the Phoenix, and form a risky alliance with the Trifecta that once ruled Nikan. Drawing heavily on 20th-century Chinese history, Kuang continues to explore familiar themes—including imperialism, racism, colorism, and the terrible and long-lasting effects of war—while deepening Rin’s portrayal, as Rin experiences moments of heartfelt sympathy and connection with others while also continually seeking power and succumbing over and over to her own hubris and paranoia. This installment dwells heavily on the devastating realities of war and the costs of leading a nation in crisis but does not sink into overly grotesque meditations—or perhaps we, along with Rin, have become desensitized and hardened. Ultimately, despite the epic scope of the plot, the novel hinges on the relationships between Rin and those closest to her: A nation may rise or fall and thousands may lose their homes or starve in the process, but their fate depends not on magic from the divine plane but on simple, fallible people.

A dark and devastating conclusion that transcends its roots in historical fact to examine brutal truths. (Map, Dramatis Personae)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266262-0

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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