A slow-gathering hallucinatory adventure that eventually delivers a great payoff.

HARROW THE NINTH

From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 2

Quirky space opera, dark fantasy, Gothic novel, and unreliable-narrator thriller combine in unusual and unpredictable ways in the second of a series.

Harrowhark the First, newly created Lyctor of the Emperor—a near-immortal councilor and warrior—is in some difficulties. The young necromancer is having serious trouble integrating the soul of her sacrificed cavalier, a necessary step in assuming her full powers and ensuring her body will fight when her soul is immersed in the undead realm of the River. Perhaps this trouble stems from her mistaken belief that her dead cavalier was cowardly bad poet Ortus Nigenad; readers of the previous volume, Gideon the Ninth (2019), know that Ortus died before the Lyctor challenge began; Harrow's true cavalier primary was the crude, defiant, and appealing young woman known as Gideon Nav. Harrow’s rewritten memories of a past that never happened as well as her conviction that she’s insane makes it nearly impossible for her to fully prepare for a hopeless battle with a planet’s vengeful soul—or to determine what’s real from moment to moment. Harrow is nowhere near as fun a protagonist as snarky, passionate Gideon, and we soon realize that her troubles are mostly self-inflicted. Although she remains sympathetic, Harrow wanders through most of the book confused, sad, desperate, and repressed except for a secret and kind of creepy passion for the Body, a beautiful, feminine-appearing preserved corpse she glimpsed in the taboo and supposedly inaccessible Locked Tomb at her home, and whose ghostly presence seems to follow her everywhere. It’s somewhat grim going until the final fifth of the book, when the story gathers itself with thrilling speed, delivering exciting action sequences and explosive revelations.

A slow-gathering hallucinatory adventure that eventually delivers a great payoff.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31322-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

THE LAST GRADUATE

A teenage witch with a natural affinity for dark magic prepares to run a deadly graduation gauntlet in this sequel to Novik's Deadly Education (2020).

Galadriel "El" Higgins has finally reached her senior year at the Scholomance, putting her one step closer to her ultimate goal: get back home or die trying. After getting a sneak peek at the monster-packed hallway she must survive if she wants to graduate, the witchy teen returns to her classes and cliques with scarcely more insight than before. El knows enough to realize that her mana stores are a fraction of what they should be—come graduation, she will lack the magical juice she needs to kill monsters and make it out alive. Her fake-dating relationship with Orion proves to be a lucky "in," netting her a new string of tenuous alliances as well as access to a wellspring of free mana. But what could be a compelling adventure story falls apart here, as the novel relies on relentless bouts of infodumping to keep readers up to speed on where the Scholomance's monsters come from and what they can do to unsuspecting students. None of these paragraphs-long blasts of information recount the details of El's last excursion, however, and so readers who have forgotten Novik's previous novel, or who have never read it at all, will find no springboard ready to help them dive into the author's newest offering. Those who stumble upon this volume risk being unmoored, as the narrative picks up immediately following the events of its predecessor, without stopping to introduce anything, including the narrator. Ultimately, El's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of every monster in the school, combined with her continued refusal to enter into any genuine alliance with classmates, leaves readers to wonder what she could possibly have left to learn—or fear—in the Scholomance.

A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12886-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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