A tale of two brothers for whom things work out a little too well to be worth the investment.

THE ODDLING PRINCE

The king of Calidon is about to die when a mysterious stranger saves him at the last minute—but the stranger carries a secret that could tear the kingdom apart.

A magic ring, after appearing seemingly out of nowhere, is killing the king. Even Prince Aric can't take it off his father's hand, but just when all hope seems lost, a beautiful, fey young man appears at the castle. He tells Aric his name is Albaric and says he's there to help the king. Miraculously, Albaric is able to get the deadly ring off the king's hand, saving his life. Not only that, but he tells a wild story of how the king got the ring from the Queen of Elfland. She captured the king when she saw him out riding, then kept him as her prisoner and companion in her strange world. But the king longed to go home, and when the queen finally granted his wish, she sent him back to the exact moment he'd left, eliminating all memories of his time in Elfland and the son they had together. That son, of course, is Albaric, who sacrificed his immortality to save the father who forgot him and who is devastated when the king distrusts and dislikes him. Even worse, he struggles to adapt to the world of mortals and is unsure of what to do with himself now that the king is alive but doesn't accept him. Aric, however, feels an instant bond with Albaric and vows to help his beloved brother find his place in a world where he will always be an oddling. The prolific Springer (Drawn into Darkness, 2013, etc.) certainly has a knack for a specific twee tone, as this novel floats along like one of the songs Albaric is so often singing. It's a sweet little tale, best suited for those who like their stories entirely without stakes or drama. Not only do no characters lose anything in any meaningful way, but the story doesn't even drum up the fear that they might. Problems are instantly solved, villains immediately eliminated or redeemed. The arc of the king's disdain for Albaric falls flat. Perhaps Springer is aiming for a kind of stylized narrative detachment here, but it comes across as affected and hollow.

A tale of two brothers for whom things work out a little too well to be worth the investment.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61696-289-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A magical mystery tour through the mythologies of all cultures, a unique and moving love story—and another winner for the...

AMERICAN GODS

An ex-convict is the wandering knight-errant who traverses the wasteland of Middle America, in this ambitious, gloriously funny, and oddly heartwarming latest from the popular fantasist (Stardust, 1999, etc.).

Released from prison after serving a three-year term, Shadow is immediately rocked by the news that his beloved wife Laura has been killed in an automobile accident. While en route to Indiana for her funeral, Shadow meets an eccentric businessman who calls himself Wednesday (a dead giveaway if you’re up to speed on your Norse mythology), and passively accepts the latter’s offer of an imprecisely defined job. The story skillfully glides onto and off the plane of reality, as a series of mysterious encounters suggest to Shadow that he may not be in Indiana anymore—or indeed anywhere on Earth he recognizes. In dreams, he’s visited by a grotesque figure with the head of a buffalo and the voice of a prophet—as well as by Laura’s rather alarmingly corporeal ghost. Gaiman layers in a horde of other stories whose relationships to Shadow’s adventures are only gradually made clear, while putting his sturdy protagonist through a succession of tests that echo those of Arthurian hero Sir Gawain bound by honor to surrender his life to the malevolent Green Knight, Orpheus braving the terrors of Hades to find and rescue the woman he loves, and numerous other archetypal figures out of folklore and legend. Only an ogre would reveal much more about this big novel’s agreeably intricate plot. Suffice it to say that this is the book that answers the question: When people emigrate to America, what happens to the gods they leave behind?

A magical mystery tour through the mythologies of all cultures, a unique and moving love story—and another winner for the phenomenally gifted, consummately reader-friendly Gaiman.

Pub Date: June 19, 2001

ISBN: 0-380-97365-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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