Amari & the Great Game by B.B. Alston


Description

Sequel to the New York Times bestseller Amari and the Night Brothers!

After finding her brother and saving the entire supernatural world, Amari Peters is convinced her first full summer as a Junior Agent will be a breeze.

But between the fearsome new Head Minister’s strict anti-magician agenda, fierce Junior Agent rivalries, and her brother Quinton’s curse steadily worsening, Amari’s plate is full. So when the secretive League of Magicians offers her a chance to stand up for magiciankind as its new leader, she declines. She’s got enough to worry about!

But her refusal allows someone else to step forward, a magician with dangerous plans for the League. This challenge sparks the start of the Great Game, a competition to decide who will become the Night Brothers’ successor and determine the future of magiciankind.

The Great Game is both mysterious and deadly, but among the winner’s magical rewards is Quinton’s last hope—so how can Amari refuse?

Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black in this magical second book in the New York Times and Indie bestselling Supernatural Investigations trilogy—perfect for fans of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, the Percy Jackson series, and Nevermoor.

My Thoughts

B.B. Alston’s sophomore Amari story is FIRE, my friends!

Amari and the Night Brothers was one of my favorite middle grade books last year, and the Great Game is a worthy successor to that romp of a book.

Here, we find Amari in some trouble. She’s still trying to bring her brother Quentin out of the cursed coma he’s been in, and she’s trying to navigate a summer without her best friend, plus anticipating a new school year without her as well. Then the world turns upside down and it appears Amari may lose everything unless she can figure out how to stop a war.

There’s excitement beyond measure here, and a cliffhanger ending that will have fans eagerly waiting for the next installment. Alston’s writing is some of the best I’ve read in middle grade fiction and I find myself hoping he’s got an adult fantasy-adventure or two waiting in the wings.

The kids are gonna love this one!

Publication Date: August 30, 2022
Published By: Harper Collins Children’s Books, Balzer & Bray
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott


Description

In the tradition of modern fairy tales like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver comes a sweeping epic rich in Eastern European folklore—a debut novel about the ancestral hauntings that stalk us, and the uncanny power of story.

The Yaga siblings—Bellatine, a young woodworker, and Isaac, a wayfaring street performer and con artist—have been estranged since childhood, separated both by resentment and by wide miles of American highway. But when they learn that they are to receive a mysterious inheritance, the siblings are reunited—only to discover that their bequest isn’t land or money, but something far stranger: a sentient house on chicken legs. 

Thistlefoot, as the house is called, has arrived from the Yagas’ ancestral home in Russia—but not alone. A sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has tracked it to American shores, bearing with him violent secrets from the past: fiery memories that have hidden in Isaac and Bellatine’s blood for generations. As the Yaga siblings embark with Thistlefoot on a final cross-country tour of their family’s traveling theater show, the Longshadow Man follows in relentless pursuit, seeding destruction in his wake. Ultimately, time, magic, and legacy must collide—erupting in a powerful conflagration to determine who gets to remember the past and craft a new future.  

An enchanted adventure illuminated by Jewish myth and adorned with lyrical prose as tantalizing and sweet as briar berries, Thistlefoot is an immersive modern fantasy saga by a bold new talent.

My Thoughts

This is a remarkable story. Loosely based on the old Russian tale of Baba Yaga and full of symbolism, this tale will haunt you. Nethercott’s protagonists – brother & sister Isaac and Bellatine – are challenged to resolve trauma through generational memory as they inherit the infamous Baba’s house on chicken legs along with an age-old enemy out to destroy the house and those connected to it.

There are so many layers to unfold here – lots of references to Jewish history, family trauma across generations, magic and mayhem, and ultimately the power of story and the bond between family members.

Lately, I find my attention often wanders when I read, and there are few books that I’m unable to put down. This is one. The story is so intricate and beautifully rendered. IMHO, Nethercott immediately joins the ranks of Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden with her glorious and deadly prose and an absolutely stunning story.

Publication Date: September 13, 2022
Published By: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group: Anchor
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

1

Description

“A wild and wonderful debut, teeming with music, family and art…This book is gorgeously written, with prose I wanted to eat off the page.” New York Times

Music is magic in this vibrant and imaginative debut novel set in a fantastical version of New Orleans where a battle for the city’s soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song. Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women help keep the order. To those from Away, Nola might seem strange. To Perilous Graves, it’s simply home.

In a world of everyday miracles, Perry might not have a talent for magic, but he does know Nola’s rhythm as intimately as his own heartbeat. So when the city’s Great Magician starts appearing in odd places and essential songs are forgotten, Perry realizes trouble is afoot.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the piano that maintains the city’s beat, and without them, Nola will fail. Unwilling to watch his home be destroyed, Perry will sacrifice everything to save it. But a storm is brewing, and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Nola’s time might be coming to an end.

Put on your dancing shoes and enjoythis song for New Orleans, the city of music, magic, and dreams.

My Thoughts

This is one weird and wonderful book! I was reminded of Terry Pratchett‘s work – audacious characters and a multi-level plot that is pretty much impossible to follow so you just have to enjoy the ride. I admit it took me some time to accept this was not going to be a linear plot, but once I let go of that rigid expectation the prose just swept me away. The characters are poppin’ with siblings Perry and Brendy, each with their own special talents, but especially with Peaches, the totally badass girl who saves the day. I am hope, hope, hoping for a sequel where Peaches, Perry, and Brendy go after Peaches’ Daddy and free him from his chains.

“A hallucinatory wonder of a debut. Brimming with language and music, this phantasmagoric novel taps the deep root of multi-cultural, multi-racial life in, and beyond, New Orleans.” ―Walter Mosley

“Funny, wild, witty, and profound. The Ballad of Perilous Graves is the debut of a cosmic storm of talent.”―Victor LaValle

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean


Description

Truth is found between the stories we’re fed and the stories we hunger for.

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.

My Thoughts

So many great debuts this year, but this one STANDS OUT!

Anyone who loves to read will be captivated by this wholly original story centered on the concept of books as actual food, overlaid with what turns out to be a pretty harrowing and fairly dark tale.

This is one the librarians will struggle to genrify – is it fantasy? Horror? Dystopian? Women’s Lit? This spectacular, original story is all that and more. Dean’s writing is some of the best I’ve read this year – tight and descriptive then flowing and expansive – all coming together in a whopper of a story.

Highly recommended.

“A darkly sweet pastry of a book about family, betrayal, and the lengths we go to for the ones we love. A delicious modern fairy tale.”— Christopher Buehlman, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author

Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Published By: Macmillan Tor/Forge
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Clackity by Lora Senf


Description

Reminiscent of Doll Bones, this deliciously eerie middle grade novel tells the story of a girl who must enter a world of ghosts, witches, and monsters to play a game with deadly consequences and rescue her aunt.

Evie Von Rathe lives in Blight Harbor—the seventh-most haunted town in America—with her Aunt Desdemona, the local paranormal expert. Des doesn’t have many rules except one: Stay out of the abandoned slaughterhouse at the edge of town. But when her aunt disappears into the building, Evie goes searching for her.

There she meets The Clackity, a creature who lives in the shadows and seams of the slaughterhouse. The Clackity makes a deal with Evie to help get Des back in exchange for the ghost of John Jeffrey Pope, a serial killer who stalked Blight Harbor a hundred years earlier. Evie must embark on a journey into a strange otherworld filled with hungry witches, penny-eyed ghosts, and a memory-thief, all while being pursued by a dead man whose only goal is to add Evie to his collection of lost souls.

My Thoughts

A new nightmare has arrived and it’s name is Clackity. This wholly original story blends elements of horror with a solid dose of folktales. The main element of a folk/fairy tale is here – a hero takes on a seemingly impossible quest to save a loved one and must prevail over a multitude of horrifying challenges. Readers of folktales will recognize some familiar motifs – 3’s and 7’s abound, the hero is gifted with an animal familiar, and salt saves the day. All of that folded into a beautifully scary story.

Senf’s writing is vivid and evocative, with the reader feeling every tendril of fog or greasy bit of iron. The bad folk here are B.A.D. and the good folk are flawed but awesome. With nods to Coraline and even The Frighteners, this one is a solid read for upper middle grades, teens, and adults who enjoy Neil Gaiman and early Stephen King.

Publication Date: June 28, 2022
Published By: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

Luminous by Mara Rutherford


Description

“Wonderfully lush and enthralling.” —Erin A. Craig, New York Times bestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrows

From the author of Crown of Coral and Pearl comes an immersive new fantasy about a witch who must learn to harness her power—or risk losing her loved ones forever.

Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.

To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos—and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

“A beautiful, enchanting tale of a young woman coming into her own powers. Luminous shines as brightly as its heroine.” —Joan He, New York Times bestselling author of The Ones We’re Meant to Find

“Shining prose, radiant characters, and a love story that burns bright.” —Elly Blake, New York Times bestselling author of the Frostblood Saga

My Thoughts

This captivating tale of a young girl discovering her own power falls somewhere between A Court of Thorn & Roses and MarcyKate Connolly’s Shadow Weaver, meaning it will appeal to advanced middle grade readers as well as to teens and adults who enjoy fantasy.

The story is familiar – a young girl must hide her powers to keep herself and her family safe, but in Rutherford’s hands readers are treated to some first class world-building and character development. Rutherford draws inspiration from multiple places – e.g. the use of three sisters, the weaving of fate from Greek mythology, even The Nothing from Neverending Story which is how I interpreted Darius – but the story she creates in wholly hers and it’s one of the best things I’ve read lately. While the main character Liora was charming and brave, I was utterly captivated by the character of Margana and thought her fate, while unexpected, was well-done.

Highly Recommended.

Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Published by: Inkyard Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull


Image showing cover of book No Gods, No Monsters: a Novel by Cadwell Turnbull

Description*

The first book in The Convergence Saga, a new series from Cadwell Turnbull, the award-winning author of The Lesson

One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?

The world will soon find out.

Review

I am slowly beginning to enjoy more urban fantasy, and this one is only making me enjoy the genre even more. There are monsters here, for sure, and the author does a good job of conveying the fact that there are REAL monsters of the hairy, dripping-fang variety but also monsters that live within us. Which monsters are the worst would make for a great book club discussion.

The characters and action are both vividly drawn, sometimes moving so fast I had to go back and re-read passages just to make sure I caught it all! The ending appeared to set the stage for a sequel and maybe even a series. Urban fantasy fans will enjoy.

So much hype for this book!

*An Indie Next Pick

*Included in Forbes Magazine‘s 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2021 According to Independent Booksellers

*Included in Marie Claire‘s 35 Must-Read 2021 Book Releases by Black Authors

*One of Buzzfeed‘s 35 Amazing Fantasy Books Coming Out This Summer

*A GoodReads Most Anticipated SFF Novel of 2021

*Included in GoodReads’ roundup of The Year’s Most Anticipated Fiction by Black Authors

*A BookRiot Pick of 2021 Black LGBTQ Books To Preorder

*A Polygon Pick of Best New SFF Books to Read this Summer

*A Tor Pick of Most Anticipated SFF Books for the Rest of 2021

Recommended.

Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Published By: Blackstone Publishing
Thanks to *NetGalley for the review copy

The Undertakers by Nicole Glover


Description

Nicole Glover delivers the second book in her exciting Murder & Magic series of historical fantasy novels featuring Hetty Rhodes and her husband, Benjy, magic practitioners and detectives living in post–Civil War Philadelphia.

Nothing bothers Hetty and Benjy Rhodes more than a case where the answers, motives, and the murder itself feel a bit too neat. Raimond Duval, a victim of one of the many fires that have erupted recently in Philadelphia, is officially declared dead after the accident, but Hetty and Benjy’s investigation points to a powerful Fire Company known to let homes in the Black community burn to the ground. Before long, another death breathes new life into the Duval investigation: Raimond’s son, Valentine, is also found dead.

Finding themselves with the dubious honor of taking on Valentine Duval as their first major funeral, it becomes clear that his passing was intentional. Valentine and his father’s deaths are connected, and the recent fires plaguing the city might be more linked to recent community events than Hetty and Benji originally thought.

The Undertakers continues the adventures of murder and magic, where even the most powerful enchantments can’t always protect you from the ghosts of the past . . .

Review

Nicole Glover’s series debut, The Conductors, is one of the most fascinating and unique stories I’ve read in a long time, and the stars of the series, Benjamin and Henrietta Rhodes, are two of the most engaging characters put to page. Glover’s second in the series, The Undertakers, drops the reader back into the Rhodes’ Philadelphia just a few months after the conclusion of The Conductors.

Ben and Hetty are trying to get their funeral home business off the ground when a new mystery is dropped in their laps. Mysterious fires and the even more mysterious deaths of a prominent businessman and his son set Hetty and Ben on a new case. An old enemy from the past re-surfaces and raises complicated feelings and memories for Hetty, who manages to tie them all back up into a neat conclusion.

Glover does a remarkable job of interweaving stories and experiences from the past into the current lives of the Rhodes and their circle of friends. She also introduces the reader to bits of African-American history that add a depth and dimension to the plot. Here, I was prompted to research the role of early fire companies in Philadelphia and other early American cities. Fire departments today are noble organizations committed to public safety, but they weren’t always so egalitarian. Glover uses that history to depict a slice of African-American life, post-enslavement.

The magical aspect of this story continues to engage me. Celestial magic versus sorcery is such an unusual view of how different cultures approach magic. Glover creates an intricate and deep relationship between African-Americans and the elements of earth, air, fire, and water and spins that into a captivating narrative sure to appeal to fans of fantasy and magic.

If you haven’t read The Conductors, go do that between now and November when this one comes out. I am definitely looking forward to the next installment in this series!

Published by: Mariner Books
Publication Date: November 9, 2021
Thanks to Edelweiss.Plus for the review copy

The Promise Witch by Celine Kiernan


Description*

Third in a darkly enchanting trilogy after Begone the Raggedy Witches and The Little Grey Girl, The Promise Witch opens in a time of heat and thirst. The deposed old tyrant of a queen sent a cursed winter to bury Witches Borough in snow. Months later, the clouds have vanished, but an equally cursed drought has settled over the castle and its river, now bone-dry. Witches Borough is dying, and though Mup is the pathfinder, the stitcher of worlds, is she strong enough to mend a scorched landscape and bring the water home? Enter a raggedy witch trailing a storm of ashes: Magda, Crow’s mother. She wants Mup to fulfill a promise. She wants Mup to help her. And woe betide any who stand in her way. Irish storyteller Celine Kiernan’s breathtaking tale of family, loyalty, and risk caps a timeless trilogy brimming with drama and danger—and heartbreaking resonance to the struggles of today.

I discovered Celine Kiernan’s series quite by accident while browsing online. I was thoroughly captivated by Begone the Raggedy Witches and eagerly read the follow-up Little Grey Girl. In The Promise Witch, Kiernan brings the family through the hardest of times, guiding Mup and Mam and the people through terrible thirst and vengeance from a power in decline.

As in the two previous stories, Mup is the center, the “stitcher of worlds” who provides the path for the new through the terrible landscape of the old.

Kiernan’s characterization is outstanding. Mup, wise beyond her years and powerful beyond belief, is still a little girl who needs her Mam. And Mam is a little girl all grown up finally understanding her role in this magical world.

This can be read as a straightforward fantasy for middle graders, but also as an allegory for climate change. Kiernan layers magic, friendship, and loyalty over top of environmental changes similar to what’s happening in our world. Her story implies that good change can happen when people come together, trust one another, and make decisions that may involve sacrifice for the benefit of others.

This is storytelling at its best. Highly recommended.

Published By: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
Thanks to *Edelweiss.Plus for the review copy

The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker


Description

In this enthralling historical epic, set in New York City and the Middle East in the years leading to World War I— the long-awaited follow-up to the acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Golem and the Jinni—Helene Wecker revisits her beloved characters Chava and Ahmad as they confront unexpected new challenges in a rapidly changing human world.

Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay, who can hear the thoughts and longings of those around her and feels compelled by her nature to help them. Ahmad is a jinni, a restless creature of fire, once free to roam the desert but now imprisoned in the shape of a man. Fearing they’ll be exposed as monsters, these magical beings hide their true selves and try to pass as human—just two more immigrants in the bustling world of 1900s Manhattan. Brought together under calamitous circumstances, their lives are now entwined—but they’re not yet certain of what they mean to each other.

The Golem and the Jinni was one of my top reads in 2013 and I still recommend it to readers in my library. I was excited to discover this sequel and dove in right away.

That was a couple months ago.

As with Golem, Wecker takes her time introducing characters and floats the various storylines along a gently running river. Normally, I would find this a lovely and welcome difference to the suspense stories I usually read; in March 2021, I found it impossible to keep my attention on the story and had to put it down. This had nothing to do with the book – it was everything going on in both the world at large and my own little corner of it.

Fast forward to May and a slightly calmer environment. I picked this up again and spent a wonderful weekend immersed in the world of Chava and Ahmad. It was my time to read this.

I thoroughly enjoyed the stories of Chava, Ahmad, and all the people who touch their lives, as well as the way Wecker ties in the significant historic events of the times, To be sure, there are lots of stories here, but Wecker keeps them all bound together, much in the way that people interact in real life. She presents a view of community and caring among people who are very different and shows that human decency can transcend differences – a message we all need right now.

Recommended.

Publication Date: June 8, 2021
Published By: Harper
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy