The Klan has demons, and Maryse hunts them with a sword that sings.
That is the premise of Ring Shout. Set in 1922 Georgia, she moves through a world filled with a quiet kind of magic–it’s not there unless you know it is, but when you find it, it’s deep.
I’m a longtime fantasy reader. I love it. I read it a lot. One of the drawbacks, though, is how often you see concepts come around again. Ring Shout hit me with stuff that was new to me–and all the more impressive because of how little P. Djèlí Clark made up out of whole cloth. He drew on folklore I’d never heard of, and made some serious A-grade horror and magic happen. Seriously, y’all, some of these demons and monsters pin your imagination down, give it a big wet kiss, and promise you’ll remember them.
And the feels, man. The feels in this book. I cried at this book. Some of the writing is so beautiful, some of the feelings hit so hard, you can’t keep it back.
But despite the horror, despite the violence, despite the talks about power and punishment and penance and people, it all comes through.
“Pray They Are Hungry” is a line that ends up setting a lot of tone in The Hollow Places. There’s so much worse things than being eaten.
The next horror novel from T. Kingfisher (author of The Twisted Ones), I had inaccurate expectations and I was fine once I rid myself of them. I somehow had the notion that this would be another Twisted Ones or a story set in the same world. It’s not, it’s very much its own thing and hits its own flavor in the horror. It’s pretty explicitly based on The Willows from Algernon Blackwood, just as The Twisted Ones was based on The White People from Arthur Machen. It’s spookception all through here.
The Twisted Ones played the slow game, building the tension and creepy and letting it ebb with the plot’s incidental visits to a normal small town and normal life. The Hollow Places gets you to the “weird” part sooner, and keeps you there longer–and then the horror starts.
I was reading it and thinking ‘this is weird but isn’t that spooky’ and then I found out it’s not scary because it’s not meant to be scary and hoo boy Kingfisher knows exactly what she’s doing when she wants to scare you. She hits you with a busload of scary at once, and I now have issues with the word ‘unravelling’.
Once the The Hollow Places ramps up, you’re unsure what’s going on and all your hypotheses are too horrible to contemplate for long. It’s a good book at making, to paraphrase T. Kingfisher from another work, ‘normal’ feel like a thin skin over an abyss. If you’re looking for an October spooky read, you can’t go far wrong with this one.
Where to get it
You can find The Hollow Places in our store or, if you’re unable to pass through the august doors of the Haunted Book Shop because of time or distance or because I renewed the wards and bindings last week in preparation for Halloween, you can get it at our Bookshop website. It’ll be mailed from our distributor, but we’ll still make a commission on the sale.
We have signed copies available of this new fantasy, which releases Tuesday! From the publisher:
New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab delivers a brilliant standalone novel, blending iconic periods in history with magic and romantic intrigue, spanning countries and centuries.
A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever—and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Life After Life, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab’s genre-defying tour de force.
An atmospheric fantasy of two people who longed to live a life where others saw them and valued them for themselves, but made Faustian bargains with differing results–those who met Henry always saw what they desired to see in him, and Addie was cursed to never be remembered. Aching and poignant.
Hey, this is Alex, and I’m not even going to pretend to be able to act cool about this. I’ve been waiting for this for too long.
A Snake Lies Waiting, part 3 of Legend of the Condor Heroes comes out tomorrow. I have been itching for this book for a minute now.
If you’re not aware, Condor Heroes is a semi-historical wuxia novel, written in the 1950s by Jin Yong (Real name: Louis Cha), never before officially translated and released in the US. It can be described as the Chinese equivalent to Lord of the Rings–since its release, it’s been deeply influential and popular, with a deep cultural penetration. It mainly follows the life and adventures of a young man named Guo Jing and, to a lesser degree, the love of his life Lotus Huang, in the early 1200s during the Jin-Song Wars in China (Short version: China split into north and south empires. The Song Dynasty is the original and more populated of the two nations, but their corrupt and ineffective leadership lets the Jin dynasty, which has some talented leaders, have a legitimate shot at completely taking over.) For more context, Genghis Khan is also a side character, and the seeds of the Mongolian Empire are planted in the time period of this book–Genghis Khan starts off as Temujin, an important warlord of the Mongolians but not yet THE warlord.
Finding this series has been, without a doubt, one of my favorite things in the past couple of years. I love it when a book teaches me something new as it entertains, and this has history and philosophy along with the incredible action (wuxia is a genre where sufficiently trained martial artists can perform superhuman, even essentially magical, feats of prowess and strength thanks to hard work and training. Think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and you’ll be in the neighborhood.)
Hitori No Shita "The Outcast: Season 3 Episode 2(2020)The fight choreography in this episode has some tight martial arts on display. From Tai-Chi to Bajiquan. pic.twitter.com/fxeaI6MMLG
Pretty much, the characters are fighting like this on page. A common recurring element in Condor Heroes is the pressure point hit to disable someone, which ends the fight in this clip.
For those who are aware of the series, possibly because I’ve geeked out to you in the store (Hi! Thank you for listening!), I think in the end Condor Heroes will be “Character Growth: How to Do It.” Guo Jing starts off an innocent, even naive, young man who believes strongly in the virtues of generosity, loyalty, and patriotism. As the story progresses, he remains generous, loyal, and patriotic, but he gets wiser and more nuanced about it. A Snake Lies Waiting has this recurring element where Guo finds a historical memorial of some kind, and finds out about the person it dedicates; in some cases his evaluation of the great names of the past can be quite harsh when before he might have simply revered them. His increasing tendency toward independent thought has been interesting to see, and I’m curious where he’ll end up in part 4. Lotus is also maturing; in the beginning, she’s clever (a genius, really) but spoiled and whimsical. Her father, one of the great martial arts masters, provided her an excellent education and trained her, but she thought actual practice was boring so she wasn’t as accomplished a martial artist as she could have been. Her growth has been about her learning there’s some things that need to be handled seriously, and her growth in power keeps pace with Guo Jing. I’m quite interested to see who she’ll be when this is all done.
Yes, A Snake Lies Waiting is the third of four parts, and it shows: Subplots are beginning to be resolved, and the tensions between some main characters are building toward some sort of resolution, but it doesn’t truly stand on its own as a narrative–I imagine someone who hasn’t read A Hero Bornand A Bond Undone would be quite lost at the characters who suddenly show up, not to mention it casually mentions a character backhanding a 200-pound shark out of the water. Hitting that hard is just something master martial artists can do in this series and it’s described and treated as such.
For all its quirks, though, I’m excited and pleased with this book, and now I’m waiting for A Heart Divided to come out. In several months. Dang it.
Lots of great releases today! Helen Macdonald, author of Hawk, has a new collection of nature essays Vesper Flights. Also out is a gorgeous picture book about Aretha Franklin:
Also out, two Young Adult novels — Where Dreams Descend and Kind of a Big Deal, the latter by Shannon Hale, author of the popular chapter books, Princess in Black. Our employee Candice reviewed Where Dreams Descend earlier this summer.
Hometown author EO Wilson returns with another foray into ants, with Tales From the Ant World, and rounding it out today are several easy readers, a board book, a fantasy novel, a new, feminist, translation of Beowulf, and several other picture books
I recently reviewed Tasmyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, a book which gave you enough setting details to go on but didn’t dwell on explaining every single little facet of its big weird gothy universe (as so many science fiction and fantasy stories do, for good or ill), and a story told from the irreverent viewpoint of Gideon herself in a third person limited viewpoint. Gideon’s attitude towards people and the society she’s in colors that whole book.
Tasmyn Muir decided to run with that theme and she gives us Harrow the Ninth, and believe me, the inside of Harrow’s head is a chilly, scary place compared to Gideon’s. In a complete shift in authorial voice, you’re given this big weird gothy universe as seen through the eyes of a necromancer who’s grown up intelligently analyzing motivations and balances of power despite the bundle of nerves and anxiety and shames she is underneath that.
Harrow the Ninth sets up a central mystery right off the mark, a very big ‘wait, what?’, and a lot of the book is spent feeding piecemeal information about the Very Strange Thing. Gideon the Ninth’s plot was, in some ways, a locked-room mystery. Harrow’s plot is pretty much solving a crime which no one witnessed. Fair warning, this book won’t make much sense if you hadn’t read Gideon yet.
I didn’t guess Gideon to go the way it did, and I didn’t guess Harrow to do what it did, and I know there’s a third book and all I can say is I have no idea what’s going to happen or where this trilogy is heading.
And I can’t wait to find out.
How to Purchase
Most of the books mentioned above are linked directly to our website where you can purchase for curbside, delivery or shipping. However, if we’re sold out, or you live out of town and would like them shipped, you can use our 3rd party supplier who will ship them to you (but will give us a commission)
And while supplies last, get an exclusive Harrow the Ninth pin (pictured)
Ghost Wood Song (ages 13 and up) Sawkill Girls meets Beautiful Creatures in this lush and eerie debut, where the boundary between reality and nightmares is as thin as the veil between the living and the dead.
If I could have a fiddle made of Daddy’s bones, I’d play it. I’d learn all the secrets he kept.
Shady Grove inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle’s tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness. When her brother is accused of murder, though, she can’t let the dead keep their secrets. In order to clear his name, she’s going to have to make those ghosts sing.
Family secrets, past heartache, a gorgeously resonant LGBT love triangle, and long-buried memories make this young adult debut more than just a ghost story—it’s haunting and hopeful and proves the importance of human connection and support in facing everything that haunts us in the dark.
Why I liked it: Now living in Nashville, North Florida native Erica Waters has captured the thin, twisted pines and Spanish moss-laden Live oaks perfectly in this story of how families pass down grief and how the objects they leave behind can haunt. This book is as lyrical and haunting as the bluegrass ballads Shady Grove plucks out of her fiddle.
It was un-put-down-able because I couldn’t tell what would happen next. I was like one of the fiddle’s ghosts–I couldn’t not be there. In addition to the beautiful imagery and setting, Shady also gives us a playlist by which to follow her band’s music. As I’m not too familiar with bluegrass, listening to the music and artists on YouTube gave the story a whole new dimension as I read.
It’s my teen Summer Reading Recommendation sure to give you chills to help beat this heat.
We’re offering no-contact curbside pickups, porch drop-offs in select neighborhoods, and we’re open by appointment. Book your time slot here. If we don’t have the book that you’re looking for in stock, use our affiliate link with bookshop.org.
“In the myriadic year of our lord — the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death! — Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.” –The opening sentence of Gideon the Ninth
This book is a master class in not bogging down a story in needless detail. The world is complicated and intricate with complex social hierarchies, religion, and magic—but the plot is a locked room mystery and the viewpoint character is a swordfighter who wasn’t raised to all this and doesn’t even try to understand it. A reader can glean clues about the houses and get a good idea of how things work if they want, but the book definitely doesn’t linger unless it’s important to the story. I didn’t guess the reveal but the clues were there all along, and that’s a hallmark of a solid mystery plot.
What the story lacks in detail, it makes up for in voice. Gideon is a soldier of the Ninth House, a place almost like a monastery, dedicated to unique religious rites and guarding some treasure, and really what she wants to do is fight things with her sword. She’s got an irreverent view of her environment and her viewpoint colors description. She’s also learned how she can get a reaction out of more straitlaced associates by saying what crosses her mind. Naturally, this causes her boss no small amount of worry when they’re trapped in a place with seven sets of their counterparts and there’s tense social maneuvering because someone is almost certainly planning to kill the rest of them.
Gideon the Ninth is now out in paperback, and if you like some Nightmare Before Christmas creepy-cute-funny-gothy vibes, or you want to read a blend of science fiction and fantasy, or you just want to read some good abrasive snark, I give it my recommendation.
How to Purchase
Above, Gideon the Ninth is linked directly to our website where you can purchase for curbside, delivery or shipping. However, if we’re sold out, or you live out of town and would like them shipped, you can use our 3rd part supplier who will ship them to you (but will give us a commission).
We have several new releases in this week, including one of my fave romances of the year: BOYFRIEND MATERIAL by Alexis Hall. Also in is Nnedi Okorafor’s sf trilogy BINTI out in one volume. Also some reads for kids, including a new BAD GUYS and more!