A genuine page-turner: dependable entertainment with no claims to profundity.

A PLAGUE OF GIANTS

From the The Seven Kennings series , Vol. 1

The author of Besieged (2017, etc.), kicks off a new doorstopper fantasy trilogy in which a peaceful continent suffers coincidental invasions by different giant races.

In this convincingly realized world, most races have their own particular magic endowment, or “kenning,” whose rites of passage few postulants survive; those that do learn that using their power overmuch causes rapid physical aging. A huge volcanic explosion drives the 12-foot-tall Hathrim (kenning: fire) from their homeland. Their leader, Gorin Mogen, long ago laid plans to illegally build a new city in the unoccupied forests of Ghurana Nent—a move neighboring Forn (kenning: plants) refuse to countenance. The Nentians themselves, preoccupied with internecine political struggles, have no kenning and can bring only armies to oppose the invaders. Until, that is, young Abhi survives an attack by wild animals and discovers he’s found the sixth kenning. A second race, meanwhile, called Bone Giants for the strange armor they wear, invades Bryn (water). They speak an unknown language, until Kaurian (air) scholar Gondel Vedd learns from a Bone Giant captive that his race seeks the (unknown) seventh kenning, insisting that the seventh will defeat the other six. All this is sturdily constructed and exceptionally well thought out, though don’t expect great characters. Hearne, totally unnecessarily, frames the entire narrative as a performance by Fintan, a Raelech (earth) bard personally involved in the action but distrusted by many, whose kenning enables him to take on the semblance of each actor in the drama. Dervan, a scribe writing it all down, provides still another entanglement with his own involved personal life. It’s all vividly described, moves briskly, and features a splendid climax that resolves the main issue while leaving plenty still to come. Most intriguing of all are the ways the various kennings interact, reminiscent of Fred Saberhagen’s Lost Swords yarns.

A genuine page-turner: dependable entertainment with no claims to profundity.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-345-54860-3

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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NINTH HOUSE

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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