An entertaining, comfy fantasy.

BADGERBLOOD

AWAKENING

The tale of a tyrant king, a princess, and a young man whose dormant powers may change the course of history.

In the kingdom of Perabon, Kor is a young forester who lives with his foster father, Peter, a woodsman who found Kor as a youngling missing most of his memories. Kor, Peter, and their trained pet badger, Spart, share a secluded and peaceful life, but Kor has a price on his head for tax evasion and murder (although there is a very good explanation for the latter). From his previous life, whatever that was, Kor retains only an old bone pendant, frequent nightmares, and a voice that tells him, “Remember your blood, remember me.” Lady Allinor of Tilldor finds herself in trouble when she briefly leaves the palace on a dangerous trip into the forest to seek a rare flower. A beast attacks her, and Kor saves her life. Their entwining paths send the youths on a life-changing journey of discovery: Something looms under Kor’s skin alongside his unwanted memories, and Allinor’s inheritance comes with a side of mythical magic thought to be lost. Peter, Kor, and Allinor share the stage in Monson’s slow-moving but engaging YA fantasy. The first in a series, this quiet entry introduces a world of shifters and magic as it explores the ways old myths and lost stories affect the lives of the protagonists. Kor’s arc is the richest as he experiences the guilt and fear connected to the suppressed memories without realizing what it all means until very late in the novel. The plot itself is standard fantasy fare, but the cast is endearing, and the story is rather diverting: Who knew that badgers could be heroes too?

An entertaining, comfy fantasy.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 979-8-707160-24-0

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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