Not the finest entry in the sequence, being slow to gather momentum and somewhat patchy, but overall a satisfying conclusion...

LEAGUE OF DRAGONS

From the Temeraire series , Vol. 9

Ninth, and last, of the Temeraire historical fantasy series (Blood of Tyrants, 2013, etc.), reimagining the Napoleonic Wars in a world where humans coexist with intelligent dragons.

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia has been foiled. Following his adventures in the Far East, Capt. William Laurence and his dragon partner, Temeraire, assist the Russian forces to harry the retreating French—but Napoleon escapes to Paris, where he plots a counterstroke. While raising new human armies, he promulgates a remarkable political document granting any dragons that will fight for him—including the ferals who owe allegiance to no government—autonomous territories and humane treatment. This offer proves a powerful enticement, especially to dragons from Russia (historically treated with great cruelty) and Britain (where attitudes range from callous indifference to outright hostility). Even worse, from Laurence’s viewpoint, Napoleon has stolen the egg of Temeraire (whose weapon is the Divine Wind, a rock-shattering roar) and Iskierka, his fire-breathing mate, knowing that the egg is enormously precious to them and that they will go to any lengths to recover it. So it should be a simple matter to lure Laurence and the dragons into a trap. One of the great pleasures of this long, sometimes uneven, but always fascinating series is the way Novik meticulously and patiently accumulates details of the various types of dragon, each having its particular aspect, talents, and behaviors, and the spectrum of attitudes humans hold toward them. Though employing a modern vocabulary, the early-19th-century writing style precisely captures the rhythms, manners, and sensibilities of the period. The action prose is vivid and immediate, especially when adopting a dragon’s perspective. You feel that, given the existence of dragons, the alternate history the author envisions might well have come to pass.

Not the finest entry in the sequence, being slow to gather momentum and somewhat patchy, but overall a satisfying conclusion to a remarkable series.

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0345522924

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

A somewhat fragmentary nocturnal shadows Jim Nightshade and his friend Will Halloway, born just before and just after midnight on the 31st of October, as they walk the thin line between real and imaginary worlds. A carnival (evil) comes to town with its calliope, merry-go-round and mirror maze, and in its distortion, the funeral march is played backwards, their teacher's nephew seems to assume the identity of the carnival's Mr. Cooger. The Illustrated Man (an earlier Bradbury title) doubles as Mr. Dark. comes for the boys and Jim almost does; and there are other spectres in this freakshow of the mind, The Witch, The Dwarf, etc., before faith casts out all these fears which the carnival has exploited... The allusions (the October country, the autumn people, etc.) as well as the concerns of previous books will be familiar to Bradbury's readers as once again this conjurer limns a haunted landscape in an allegory of good and evil. Definitely for all admirers.

Pub Date: June 15, 1962

ISBN: 0380977273

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1962

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