MixedThe New York Journal of BooksMuch of the pleasure in a novel like this comes from the exploration of that cosmology and its associated culture, but Moreno-Garcia doesn’t neglect the broader mortal world her characters move through...For readers unfamiliar with the finer details of Mexican history, these contextual elements are very welcome, building a complex picture that resists easy essentialism ... Some of that comes at a price, though. The omniscient perspective that allows Moreno-Garcia to discourse upon trends and events in Mexican history is frequently distancing when it comes to the characters themselves ... the reader rarely gets a chance at the kind of close empathy other viewpoint structures more readily provide ... A second difficulty comes from the structure of the story ... Fortunately, by the end of the novel both of these problems fade away ... the final playing-out of the struggle for the future of Xibalba and the mortal world is satisfyingly both personal and mythic, in a way that rings true to the principles of the cosmology from which those gods come.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... dances along these strands of subjunctivity, not merely in terms of its genre (fantasy) but in the way she tells the tale ... As these various levels of unreality nest inside one another, it is easy for the reader to lose track of where exactly they stand—but in ways that precisely serve the purpose of the story, rather than undermining it ... Lord does a very effective job of making the undying seem like more than simply humans with special powers ... an aspect of worldbuilding rarely touched on in much fantasy and very well-handed here ... For those who have read the previous book, it may be a disappointment that Paama only appears for a few pages, but this dive into the internecine struggles of the undying and the complexities of their interaction with humanity are a welcome expansion on the world and characters of Lord’s first novel.
G. Willow Wilson
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksAlthough the writing is beautiful and the character interactions are sharply drawn, the structure of the plot is more diffuse than it might have been ... It’s hard to escape the feeling that Wilson herself had difficulty articulating what the Bird King represents in this novel. The intended meaning might be clearer to those who are familiar with The Conference of the Birds, the 12th century Persian poem by Farid ud-Din Attar that inspired and shaped this book ... The Bird King is a beautiful read, paying fine attention to the natural environment and the nuances of the characters’ interactions. Some authors who take up prose fiction after working in comics neglect the strengths of the medium—poetic description, physical experience, and interiority—but not Wilson.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksPart of Shannon\'s great strength here is her worldbuilding, which draws recognizably on real-world countries (specifically England and Japan), but goes well beyond simply changing a few names, working in new elements that distinguish Shannon\'s world from actual history ... Shannon also avoids the usual trap of this type of story, in which a prophecy predicts what is going to happen, and turns out to be accurate in every respect ... It\'s also noteworthy—though at this point it shouldn\'t be—that much of the key action is driven by women and characters of color (categories that often overlap in these pages) ... The novel\'s main weakness comes in its second half, where the story begins to feel rushed. The first half develops its conflicts with rich detail, but after the midpoint things that could have formed entire complex subplots often get disposed of with a single straightforward effort ... The disappointment this creates is, more than anything, a measure of how well-developed the first half is ... The Priory of the Orange Tree is a fascinating epic fantasy set in a rich, well-developed world. Shannon has created fertile narrative ground, and the state of affairs at the end of this novel certainly leaves room for new stories that will make further use of the excellent setting.
Kenji Miyazawa, Trans. by John Bester
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksThe natural imagery is especially prevalent in these tales, not only in the presence of animal characters, but in the environmental detail that surrounds them. The short length and slight nature of many of these stories means they are often better appreciated in a poetic light than a plot one. Some of them, however, make for more substantive reading ... There is humor...and also profound kindness ... compassion runs through Miyazawa\'s tales ... Many of the stories lack any particular villain; those that have one are as likely to grant them mercy as to bring retribution down upon their heads. And even when the latter occurs, another character or the narrative voice itself often expresses sympathy for their erstwhile tormenter. That sense of kindness makes for gentle reading, despite the sadness and cruelty that often crops up along the way.