Larkwood, A. K. The Unspoken Name.

NY: Tor, 2020.

I’ve managed to read quite a few really good books over the years, partly because I get through a lot of reviews beforehand, so I usually know what to expect going in. It’s not often I get really blown away unexpectedly. But this time? Wow. Just wow. I know nothing whatever about the author except that she studied at Cambridge and lives in Oxford, and that this is apparently her debut novel.

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Morgan, Rachel. The Faerie Guardian.

np: Amazon Digital Services, 2012, 2015.

I confess I got a little confused when I first saw this book. Kim Harrison, who hails from the Cincinnati area, has done a series of mostly quite good fantasy novels about witches and demons and vampires and whatnot, and there’s a fair amount of romance to be found in them, too. The main character’s name in that series is “Rachel Morgan.”

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Thummler, Brenna. Sheets.

St. Louis: Lion Forge Comics, 2018.

Being thirteen is no fun at all for Marjorie Glatt, not since her mother accidentally drowned. Her little brother hasn’t quite figured it out yet and her father almost never leaves his room, leaving the running of the family’s laundromat business almost entirely in her hands.

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Parker, K. J. The Two of Swords: Vols. 1, 2 & 3.

NY: Orbit 2015-17.

I so enjoyed Parker’s most recent book, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, that I immediately went looking for his earlier work. And I found this three-volume epic, and it’s a doozy. The whole thing runs to some 1,500 pages, by the way, so carve yourself out some uninterrupted time for it.

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Parker, K. J. Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City.

NY: Orbit, 2019.

Under his own name, British author Tom Holt writes some pretty good historical fiction, mostly set in the ancient world, as well as some rather mediocre attempts at humor with a fantasy theme. As “K. J. Parker,” though, he has produced some first-rate epic fantasy, all of it populated only by humans (no wizards, orcs, or dragons, and absolutely no magic or supernatural goings on) and most of it with a historical feel to it.

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Grossman, Lev. The Magician’s Land.

NY: Viking, 2014.

This is the concluding volume of a very above-average — and very adult — fantasy trilogy about the other world of magic that coexists with our mundane Earth, and it’s a very satisfying read. Volume Two told the story of Quentin Coldwater post-Brakebills, and this one is about his less happy life post-Filory. Because he’s been exiled from the only place he ever really wanted to be, and the future is looking pretty grim.

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Published in: on 2 August 2019 at 4:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dickinson, Seth. The Monster Baru Cormorant.

NY: Tor, 2018.

When last we saw Baru Cormorant, native of a now-ruined island semi-paradise, and agent provocateur of the Imperial Republic of Falcrest, she had just betrayed the rebellion in the colonial province of Aurdwynn – a rebellion which she had fomented and then led. And she had arranged the destruction of the uprising’s aristocratic leaders, leaving a huge power vacuum, which Falcrest could now fill however it pleased.

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Published in: on 22 July 2019 at 6:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Grossman, Lev. The Magician King.

NY: Viking, 2011.

It’s difficult to write a review of the second volume of a trilogy without spoiling it for those who haven’t begun the first volume yet. Let’s try this: At the end of volume one, Quentin Coldwater, recent graduate of Brakebills, had lost something precious and attempted to give up magic entirely as a result, but found that was impossible. Well, in this second episode, he gains the one thing he has wanted all his life: Entrance to Filory, the magical world. (And I mean that literally.)

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Published in: on 15 July 2019 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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Zappia, Fancesca. Eliza and Her Monsters.

NY: HarpeCollins, 2017.

This is the author’s second YA novel and it’s every bit as good as her first one, Made You Up, though in a rather different way. High school senior Eliza Mirk works hard at being a wallflower, at receding into the background when she’s outside her own bedroom. The idea of being noticed, at school or anywhere else, beyond what she absolutely cannot avoid, terrifies her.

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Kuang, R. F. The Poppy War.

NY: Harper, 2018.

I’ve read a number of really first-rate recently-published fantasy novels in the last couple of years — two-thirds of a trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss, two books by Naomi Novik, one by Seth Dickinson, and two whole trilogies by N. K. Jemisin. And now this carefully plotted and gorgeously written book joins that group. Rebecca Kuang is Chinese-American, with a specialty in the classical literature of her native land, and that basic fact informs the whole of the story.

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