RaveBooklistKnox’s restrained, poetic writing works well with this ever-spiraling, mind-blowing optical illusion of a novel, which marries myths and lore from Celtic, Norse, and Judeo-Christian traditions with a variety of literary references. Weird and enigmatic, occasionally slow but never dull, this grand ode to Story itself is one that begs for a reread.
MixedBooklistKerr gives equal attention to multiple characters and plotlines alongside Alyssa’s mission, none of which are fully developed; pacing is leisurely, and most of the action is political. Sword of Fire will appeal most to serious Deverry fans, but readers who like courtly fantasy and intricate politics may also enjoy.
George R. R. Martin
PositiveBooklistThis volume doesn’t tie up many loose ends, but it delivers the tension, political intrigue, emotional impact, and moral ambiguousness that fans expect, and the sinister conclusion foretells a bloody return.
RaveBooklistAbercrombie unerringly juggles a large cast of multifaceted, morally ambiguous characters, each embroiled in their own complicated story; each suffers a crushing blow to their sense of self, their relationships, or their worldview. Taken together, this unflinching depiction of human nature becomes slow-motion tragedy on a grand scale, shot through with moments of humor, excitement, and hope. For Abercrombie fans, there are nods to his First Law series, but this first volume in a new trilogy is an excellent starting point for new readers.
MixedBooklistBailey...weaves literary allusions and folkloric motifs together with gorgeous prose to create this grief-imbued story, which suffers slightly from disproportionate pacing and a disservice to Erin’s character, who has little agency. This will appeal to fans of psychological horror, fairy-tale retellings, and metanarratives.
C Robert Cargill
PositiveBooklistIn the best stories, Cargill puts atypical narrators in moral dilemmas, from a veteran punishing sinners in the afterlife for a chance at redemption to a suicide bomber recruited to mark one-million people for death. The final novella, set in the world of Dreams and Shadows (2013), will please that novel’s fans with more about the origin of its character, Colby. Cargill’s rich language, excellent ear for dialogue, and gritty yet fantastical settings are on display here.
RaveBooklistVanderMeer marries bildungsroman, domestic drama, love story, and survival thriller into one compelling, intelligent story centered not around the gee-whiz novelty of a flying bear but around complex, vulnerable characters struggling with what it means to be a person. VanderMeer’s talent for immersive world-building and stunning imagery is on display in this weird, challenging, but always heartfelt novel.