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Waiting on Wednesday – Pirate King

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. This week’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

Pirate King

Laurie R. King

Publication Date: September 6

I’m looking forward to Pirate King (Random House, 2011), the latest absorbing novel from Laurie R. King.
Pirate King
is the 11th book in the series of novels (starting with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice) that have the young bluestocking Mary Russell living and working alongside the daunting Sherlock Holmes. An unusually well-educated female of the day, Mary Russell has daunting talents of her own when it comes to detection, as well as a facility with languages and logic that make her an, if not quite equal, partner in solving cases, a close facsimile thereof.
The books in this series touch on international politics, history, philosophy, religion, and other weighty issues, with the elements of historical fiction outweighing the mystery elements. They may not appeal to Sherlock Holmes purists, or to those who like their mysteries straight up.

Waiting for the next book now: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

If you’ve read The Magicians by Lev Grossman (reviewed by me in 2009) you can expect the same high level of humor, action, cool-nerd references, and weird magical adventures from the sequel, The Magician King, along with the same underlying levels of both deep-seated sadness at the human condition and giddy awareness of the preciousness of life.
For King Quentin, life is simple in Fillory when the story opens. The magical land described in the beloved children’s books is where he had always wanted to be. But the pleasures of a settled existence and royal routines (waving to the Fillorians from the balcony, sitting ceremonially on one of the four thrones, etc.) have started to wane, especially when he remembers the dangers he faced before settling down to rule over Fillory. Plus, Queen Julia (always a bit strange and a little rough around the edges) is exhibiting signs of restlessness. This worries Quentin, who cares for her in his self-absorbed way. When unusual events start occurring beyond the castle walls, Quentin decides to do something. King Eliot and Queen Janet — content to remain as they are– only protest for form’s sake when Quentin and Julia set off on a voyage. The voyage turns into a quest, which turns into a life-or-death struggle for the future of the magical kingdom.
Alternating with the present is the story of Julia’s past and her dangerously unorthodox route to magic  that led to her being scarily more powerful than the others. (Unlike Quention, Eliot, and Janet, she’s not a Brakebills College of Magic graduate.)
You definitely need to read The Magicians before this one to get the references to the earlier book. Also, be aware that this is a book for adults and there is adult content. It is not the book to buy for your ten-year-old looking for something to read after Harry Potter. If you liked American Gods by Neil Gaiman or Patrick Rothfuss‘s Kingkiller Chronicles, but skipped over The Magicians when it came out, you might want to get started on it now. This sequence of Magician novels seems like a sleeper that should slowly become a cult classic, but more fortunately for the author, it’s well on it’s way to being an open secret.
Read an excerpt of The Magician King here.
Read the Boston Globe review here.
Other opinions about The Magician King (mostly good):
Entomology of a Bookworm
Escape Reality, Read Fiction
Jenn’s Bookshelves
The Ranting Dragon
Uncertain Principles

Overwrought: Iron House by John Hart

Excited blurbs from Patricia Cornwell and Vince Flynn on the cover should have given me a clue that Iron House, John Hart’s fourth literary thriller, is more action and thrills than novelistic description and character development. If you’re a fan of Patricia Cornwell and Vince Flynn, then try Iron House. There are murders, mobsters, crooked politicians, trauma, and torture scenes in abundance.
For a thriller, though, the story takes a long time to build up steam — jerkily pausing for melodramatic flashbacks to childhood abuse in Iron House, an anarchic orphanage deep in the mountains of North Carolina. And for a “literary thriller”, writing like this just doesn’t cut it:

A final shudder rolled under her skin, then she collected herself as she always did. She crushed the weakness and the doubt, drove home to tall, stone walls and mirrors that failed to see so deep. She reminded herself that she was iron on the outside, and harder than any woman alive.

There are great reviews of Iron House out there and the bodies in the book pile up quickly, but King of Lies, the first novel by John Hart (a former lawyer turned bestselling author) is still his best work, in my opinion, combining a suspenseful story with narrative twists. Each book that followed (Down South, The Last Child, Iron House) has disappointed, although glowing reviews suckered me into reading all of them. This one is definitely the last.
For literary thrillers, I’ll stick with Peter Abrahams, Val McDermid, Thomas H. Cook, and Inger Ash Wolfe and others whose writing I don’t notice until I close the book at the end, saying, “Wow! Good book!”

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