The only drawback to these seven stories is that readers will want far more time in each world.

THE TANGLEROOT PALACE

STORIES

A collection of short stories exploring the emotional complexity, diverse physicality, and layered sexuality of resourceful women.

In “Sympathy for the Bones,” Clora is old Ruth’s unwilling apprentice witch in Kentucky, forced to murder men with hoodoo magic or surrender her soul. Having lost her family, Clora longs to know what it feels like to love and be loved, even as she plans her escape. Another kind of escape is brewing in “The Briar and the Rose,” a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” only this time the charming prince is a brown warrior-woman who must walk the dangerous line between freeing the woman she’s come to love and her duty to her mistress­—the sorceress who inhabits Rose’s body six days out of seven. In "Call Her Savage," a striking magical alternate history, ex–Lady Marshall Xīng MacNamara—who comes from New China, on the Pacifica coast of an America allied with its Native peoples—must kill her former lover Maude in order to stop the Redcoats from colonizing the world. Rounding out the collection are a story about Amish vampires and a secret marriage in a plague-ridden future that gingerly explores trauma and strength; a gay wannabe-supervillain looking for a superhero to love him in a story that asks what true vulnerability can awaken; and a princess, determined to forge her own path through sentient trees and evil queens, who wrestles with how to remain true to duty, heart, and mind. Within each tale, author Liu gives a masterclass in the art of storytelling. She doesn’t waste a word or a comma, nor does she miss an opportunity to dive into what makes us human, no matter who we are or who we love. In the title novella, the protagonist learns that “some trees are bark and root, and some trees have soul and teeth.” So, too, will readers find that Liu’s writing is all “soul and teeth.” Neither will release them quickly.

The only drawback to these seven stories is that readers will want far more time in each world.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61696-352-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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