Shelf Awareness for Thursday, July 16, 2020

William Morrow & Company: Polostan: Volume One of Bomb Light by Neal Stephenson

Shadow Mountain: The Legend of the Last Library by Frank L Cole

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Elements of Marie Curie: How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science by Dava Sobel

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly

Quotation of the Day

'We're Not the Same Store We Were Before All This'

"As time has wore on, it's become harder to articulate the most identifiable (and maybe shared) sentiment: exhaustion. Everything is happening not only so quickly but all at once. At a time when even the people we need most in our lives, the strangers and friends alike, are termed potential 'vectors of transmission,' every decision carries a weight its seams weren't designed to hold together.

"That, in the midst of all this, you've showered us with not only orders, but so much love and genuine kindness, it's... a lot. I don't say this often enough not to mean it when I do: you are the best....

"Let me up the ante a bit. We're not the same store we were before all this. I think even in the midst of the exhaustion, the piled up boxes we can't possibly deal with in a single day, the backed-up shipping queue, the e-mails that go days without being answered, the voicemail that (let's not even go there)... we may be better than ever. The sense of community and purpose this place provides me, and so many others, is what makes all of this worth it. So bring on those orders."

--Brad Johnson, owner of East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, Calif., in "A Summer Letter" to customers

Running Press Kids: Your Magical Life: A Young Witch's Guide to Becoming Happy, Confident, and Powerful by Amanda Lovelace


Lisa Lucas Leaving National Book Foundation to Head Pantheon and Schocken Books

Lisa Lucas

Lisa Lucas is leaving her position as executive director of the National Book Foundation at the end of the year to become senior v-p, publisher of Pantheon and Schocken Books at Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Since joining the Foundation in 2016, she revitalized and expanded its programs and the National Book Awards. Before that, she was publisher of the online magazine Guernica from 2012 to 2016. She has also served as co-chair of the Brooklyn Book Festival's nonfiction programming, consultant for the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Literature, and juror for the United States Artists Fellowships, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Lucas said, "The National Book Foundation gave me the opportunity to simultaneously celebrate great literature and imagine just how big the audience for excellent books could be if we only dared to dream bigger. In this same spirit, I look forward to joining Pantheon and Schocken, with an aim of building on the rich publishing history of those imprints and judiciously remixing their lists. I am excited to work alongside [v-p, editorial director] Dan Frank and the entire Pantheon and Schocken team. Together, we will publish thoughtfully and creatively, elevate a community of established and new writers, and consider who our next readers can and will be."

Reagan Arthur, executive v-p, publisher, Knopf, Pantheon, and Schocken, who hired Lucas, commented: "I've loved watching Lisa deploy her formidable skills and boundless energy on behalf of the National Book Foundation; her work as an advocate for writers and readers has been truly inspiring. When I thought about Pantheon's rich legacy and imagined ways to build on that for the future, the first name that came to mind was Lisa's. I'm delighted to know that Pantheon will continue to thrive and evolve under her leadership, in concert with our incredible team of editors, marketers, and publicists."

David Steinberger, chair of the National Book Foundation's board, said, "Lisa has significantly increased the visibility and impact of the National Book Awards, and substantially expanded all of the Foundation's programs. She has been the energetic heartbeat of the Foundation, and we are deeply appreciative of her years of leadership. We congratulate Lisa on this exciting new career opportunity, and look forward to her continuing to make a difference in the years ahead. The board will soon begin a national search for her replacement."

While executive director, Lucas launched the National Book Award for Translated Literature, the first new award in more than two decades, and revamped the longstanding citizenship requirements of the National Book Awards to include non-U.S. citizens and those with particularly complex immigration status. She also oversaw jury panels that awarded National Book Awards and lifetime achievement awards to John Lewis, Ibram X. Kendi, Colson Whitehead, Robert A. Caro, Masha Gessen, Elizabeth Acevedo and László Krasznahorkai, among many others.

She also produced many educational programs and public programs that connect readers in every community to books and was instrumental in securing a $900,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for national public programming at colleges, libraries, and performing houses. She expanded existing public programs and pioneered new efforts including Literature for Justice, which distributed thousands of books into prisons this year. Under her leadership, and in partnership with the United States Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development, the Urban Libraries Council, and the National Center for Families Learning, the National Book Foundation launched the Book Rich Environments program, which over the past four years has provided 1.4 million books to young people and families in public housing across the country.

In a New York Times article called "In Publishing, 'Everything Is Up for Change,' " Lucas said, "I always joke that I'm like a house renovator. You go into a classic old beautiful house that's totally fine, and you figure out how to bring it into the future and make sure it's steady and strong and modern. The idea is loving tradition but also loving the future."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

Horizon Books in Traverse City, Mich., Will Stay Open

The Horizon Books flagship store in Traverse City, Mich., will remain open. In January, co-owners Amy Reynolds and Vic Herman had announced they were planning to close the location after 58 years in business, while keeping their Cadillac store open. That plan was put on hold in the spring when the owners teamed up with the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority and Rotary to find new tenants for the building.

"Then two things happened in quick succession: Covid-19 and an outpouring of community support for the bookstore. And, the couple reevaluated their plans to sell," the Record-Eagle reported.

"We're not closing," Reynolds noted. "We're looking at how to make the building viable as a community space. We have some ideas that aren't finalized yet, but it will stay a bookstore." She added that community reaction to the news has been enthusiastic. "They either dance a little jig or cross themselves and say 'Hallelujah.' "

Rotary Charities staff worked with the Downtown Development Authority and Horizon staff to fund a $26,000 IFF study on the role of the bookstore in the community. "The really beautiful thing about Horizon is the organic way it grew into a community space," said Becky Ewing, Rotary Charities executive director. "Our board invested in the study as part of our longterm commitment to downtown. This is an indoor space that's accessible to everyone."

"The challenge is trying to find some way to finance a community space," Reynolds said. "Pending the results of the study, all I can say is we're not selling. And, if someone has a good idea on how to achieve what we're trying to do, I'm amenable to hearing what that is."

Record-Eagle editorial yesterday celebrated the good news, noting: "There are a few definitions of cornerstone floating around in our culture. Some refer to the block situated at corner of a building near its base. Others describe a word that sums up essential, indispensable value.

"It's that second definition that comes to mind when we think of Horizon Books. That's why we were elated this week when we learned the long-time Front Street fixture will carry on its life as a bookstore and community gathering space....

"We're sure some things will change along the way, a plot twist for an institution that helps breathe life into the community we so love. But we're thankful there will be another chapter for Horizon Books."

Children's Institute Goes Virtual

The American Booksellers Association's eighth annual Children's Institute, the first fully virtual conference for the organization, kicked off yesterday and continues today on the virtual platform Hopin.

Wednesday morning, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, associate professor in the Division of Literacy, Culture and International Education at Penn GSE and author of The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games (NYU Press), acted as moderator for a panel titled "Representation in Science Fiction and Fantasy Young Adult and Middle Grade Books." With the purpose of celebrating "the representation of Black girls in middle grade and young adult science fiction and fantasy stories as well as the Black female authors who create these characters and works," Thomas spoke with Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles, Freeform/Disney) and Tracy Deonn (Legendborn, Margaret K. McElderry/S&S; Sept. 15) in a virtual "kitchen table conversation." This format was meant to allow the discussion to flow organically because, as Thomas said, "So often in publishing and librarianship... you don't have an all-Black woman panel."

Clockwise from top left: Dhonielle Clayton, ASL interpreter Jennye Kamin, Tracy Deonn and Ebony Elizabeth Thomas.

Thomas began by pointing out that "worldbuilding is something that is central to all speculative fiction." How, she asked, do Clayton and Deonn build their worlds? "I'm always trying to ask a question," Deonn answered. "What is the challenge here? What does it mean to be a monster? What does it mean to be legendary?" Clayton took this response and refocused it, agreeing with the question approach and adding, "What does it mean to have magic that is rooted in oppression?" The fluid, animated conversation gave the three opportunity to touch upon a range of science fiction and fantasy topics: Where does magic come from? How does it work/interact with oppression? How does oppression change magic? How to "move audiences and fandoms so they stop writing racist and misogynist... reviews" (Thomas). The most important question of all, perhaps, was how we can "shift audiences" so that more white people engage with works by BIPOC. Nicole Brinkley, manager of Oblong Books, Rhinebeck, N.Y., and co-chair of the New England Children's Booksellers Advisory Council, responded in the comments, "Shifting the market is our job!!! We can read and handsell and advocate and do better. (So can publishers! Put that pressure on 'em!)" --Siân Gaetano, children's & YA editor

NetGalley Launches Audiobook Support, New App

NetGalley has launched a pair of enhancements to its service: audiobooks and the NetGalley Shelf app. Available in both the U.S. and U.K., the additions are designed to expand the platform. The NetGalley Shelf app "is the recommended way to read digital review copies, and the exclusive way to listen to audiobooks made available on NetGalley," the company said. The dedicated app is available free in both the ​Apple​ and ​Google Play​ stores.

"We're thrilled to broaden the service to support audiobook publishers," said Kristina Radke, v-p, business growth and engagement. "We believe early feedback about new books (no matter the format) is good for ​all ​books, and we're honored to be the place where over 550,000 ​reviewers, booksellers, librarians, educators and media discover and review."

CEO Fran Toolan commented: "​NetGalley members and publishers who utilize the service (and our own team) have long been asking for an app.... ​The NetGalley Shelf app, combined with the existing web platform, now provides our members with the entire value chain from the discovery of new works through the reading and listening experience."

Obituary Note: Joanna Cole

Joanna Cole

Joanna Cole, author of more than 250 books for children, including the Magic School Bus series, died on Sunday at age 75, her publisher, Scholastic, announced.

With illustrator Bruce Degen, she created the groundbreaking science series in 1986, bringing humor and kid-like curiosity to science and learning. The winner of many awards, the book series has 13 core titles and dozens of series tie-ins, with more than 93 million copies in print in 13 countries.

In 1994, Scholastic Entertainment introduced The Magic School Bus animated television series, based upon the characters created by Cole and Degen and starring Lily Tomlin as the voice of Ms. Frizzle. It is the longest running science series on TV, on the air for 18 consecutive years. The new The Magic School Bus: Rides Again series, starring Kate McKinnon as Ms. Frizzle's sister Fiona Frizzle, launched on Netflix in fall 2017, and the first of four The Magic School Bus specials will air in August. In addition, The Magic School Bus feature film is currently in development with Universal Pictures.

Among Cole's early books were Bony-Legs, The Clown Arounds, and Best Loved Folktales of the World. Her first book, published in 1971, was Cockroaches, inspired by an article in the Wall Street Journal. After doing some research, she discovered that there had never been a children's book written about cockroaches and saw an opportunity.

Cole explained her deep and abiding love for science this way: "In my science books, including the Magic School Bus books, I write about ideas, rather than just the facts. I try to ask a question, such as how do scientists guess what dinosaurs were like? Then I try to answer the question as I write the book."

Dick Robinson, chairman, president and CEO of Scholastic, said, "Joanna Cole had the perfect touch for blending science and story. Joanna's books, packed with equal parts humor and information, made science both easy to understand and fun for the hundreds of millions of children around the world who read her books and watched the award-winning television series. Her Ms. Frizzle led a group of eager and curious students on countless adventurous trips on the Magic School Bus--into the human body, hurricanes, the solar system, and everywhere imaginable. Her spirited work will live on as the Magic School Bus continues to be discovered by new readers and viewers."

Illustrator Bruce Degen said, "I think for Joanna the excitement was always in the idea. What? Why? How? And with the Magic School Bus it was how to explain it so that it is accurate and in a form that a kid can understand and use. And you can actually joke around while you are learning. She had a rare sense of what could be humorous."

He recalled meeting her for the first time in 1984 in the office of Craig Walker, who asked them to work together. "We did not know each other. In the world of children's books it is not often necessary for illustrator and writer to actually meet, but there were conundrums with the Magic School Bus. Every page was so complicated we had to make decisions: how to make it work. Could it work? And we did. Together. And we became friends. What Joanna has meant to the world, what there is in the world because of her, is well known. What she meant to me I can't describe. Everyone who knew her, worked with her, loved her, knows what a loss it is."

Before her death, Cole and Degen completed The Magic School Bus Explores Human Evolution, scheduled for publication in spring 2021.


Masking Up: Northshire Bookstore Saratoga

The Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., "is happy to welcome our customers back into our store! We only ask that everyone continue to practice social distancing and wear a mask. Bookseller Cassidy poses with just a few of the many masks we have available for sale! #feelthefreedom"

Cool Idea of the Day: Good Things Come in Threes Prize Bundle

Bards Alley Bookshop, Vienna, Va., is offering a chance to win a prize for customers who are up for returning to the store: "Did you hear? All week long, if you physically come in to the store and buy three or more books, you can enter to win this fabulous 'Good Things Come in Threes' Prize Bundle!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Christine Montross on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Christine Montross, author of Waiting for an Echo: The Madness of American Incarceration (Penguin Press, $28, 9781594205972).

The View: D.L. Hughley, co-author of Surrender, White People!: Our Unconditional Terms for Peace (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062953704).

This Weekend on Book TV: Rep. Eric Swalwell on Endgame

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, July 18
12:40 p.m. John Larson, author of Laid Waste!: The Culture of Exploitation in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, $39.95, 9780812251845).

2:45 p.m. Adam Goodman, author of The Deportation Machine: America's Long History of Expelling Immigrants (Princeton University Press, $29.95, 9780691182155), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.

5:55 p.m. Rep. Eric Swalwell, author of Endgame: Inside the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump (Abrams, $27, 9781419745409), at Rakestraw Books in Danville, Calif. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m.)

6:50 p.m. Newt Gingrich, author of Trump and the American Future: Solving the Great Problems of Our Time (Center Street, $28, 9781546085041). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

Sunday, July 19
1:55 a.m. Erica C. Barnett, author of Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery (Viking, $26, 9780525522324). (Re-airs Sunday at 4:55 p.m.)

2:30 p.m. Thomas Orlik, author of China: The Bubble that Never Pops (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780190877408).

3:45 p.m. Michael R. Auslin, author of Asia's New Geopolitics: Essays on Reshaping the Indo-Pacific (Hoover Institution Press, $29.95, 9780817923242).

9 p.m. Steven Levy, author of Facebook: The Inside Story (Blue Rider Press, $30, 9780735213159). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

10:55 p.m. David Litt, author of Democracy in One Book or Less: How It Works, Why It Doesn't, and Why Fixing It Is Easier Than You Think (Ecco, $28.99, 9780062879363).

Books & Authors

Awards: N.-Y. Historical Society Children's History Book Winner

Never Caught, The Story of Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Kathleen Van Cleve (Aladdin Books) won the $10,000 New-York Historical Society Children's History Book Prize, given annually to "the best American history book for middle readers ages 9-12, fiction or nonfiction." A special online ceremony to celebrate the authors will take place at a future date.

Dr. Louise Mirrer, the organization's president and CEO, said: "Ona Judge's story is one of resourcefulness and determination but one that many people don't know. The book also shows young readers a side of George and Martha Washington that isn't often seen, but which is equally important for children to understand so that they're able to humanize our Founding Fathers."

Dunbar commented: "Two hundred and twenty four years ago, a young Ona Judge made the courageous decision to challenge the president of the United States and seek freedom and humanity,” said Erica Armstrong I can think of no better time for Never Caught to be recognized as important history for young readers. It is an honor to receive this award, and I accept this on behalf of Ona Judge and all of our present-day freedom seekers."

Van Cleve added: "While co-writing Never Caught with Erica has been the highlight of my writing career, the true value of winning an award like the Children's History Book Prize is the awareness that Ona's life, set amid a bigger, broader consideration of American history, will become known to countless more people. I could not be happier or more honored."

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, July 21:

Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador, and the Movie Game by Oliver Stone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780358346234) is the film director's memoir.

The Answer Is... : Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781982157999) is a memoir by the host of Jeopardy!

Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina by Chris Frantz (St. Martin's Press, $29.99, 9781250209221) is a memoir about the band Talking Heads.

Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric by Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780358250418) tracks the missteps of a corporate giant.

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum (Doubleday, $25, 9780385545808) explores global shifts toward authoritarian nationalism.

How You Say It: Why You Talk the Way You Do--And What It Says About You by Katherine D. Kinzler (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780544986558) examines the relationships between speech and social identity.

Malorie by Josh Malerman (Del Rey, $28, 9780593156858) is the sequel to Bird Box.

Lineage Most Lethal by S.C. Perkins (Minotaur, $26.99, 9781250750075) is the second mystery with Texas genealogist Lucy Lancaster.

Your Second Act: Inspiring Stories of Reinvention by Patricia Heaton (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781982141608) is by the star of the new TV series Carol's Second Act.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon (Simon Pulse, $18.99, 9781534416819) is the follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi and There's Something About Sweetie.

Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg by Rob Sanders, illus. by Levi Hastings (Holt, $19.99, 9781250267573) is a picture book biography of the former presidential candidate written by the author who brought readers such GLBTQIAP+ nonfiction picture books as Stonewall and Pride.

Don't You Know There's a War On? by Janet Todd (Fentum Press, $15.95, 9781909572072) follows a war-widow and her daughter in post-World War II England.

The Hero of Hope Springs by Maisey Yates (HQN, $9.99, 9781335013514).

Compassionate Conversations: How to Speak and Listen from the Heart by Diane Musho Hamilton, Gabriel Menegale Wilson and Kimberly Loh (Shambhala, $16.95, 9781611807783).

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

The Girl from Widow Hills: A Novel by Megan Miranda (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781501165429). "How do you cope when the whole world knows your name and acts like they own a bit of your trauma story? Maybe you change your name, like Olivia does, and try to make a break from your past. Until one night when you find yourself sleepwalking. Like you did 20 years ago. And suddenly not only has your past caught up with you, it is legit stalking you. Now your secret is out, but there are even more deadly secrets hiding in the shadows. The final twists in this story are so sharp, you'll check yourself for stab wounds! Another fantastic, twisty, thrilling read from Megan Miranda!" --Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va.

The Last Flight: A Novel by Julie Clark (Sourcebooks Landmark, $26.99, 9781728215723). "When two women from different backgrounds, each with good reason for wanting to escape her current life, meet by chance at JFK, they decide to switch plane tickets and identities. When one of the flights crashes, the action really begins. This is a unique thriller that draws you into both lives and will have you turning the pages until the unexpected but perfect ending. I loved it!" --Terry Gilman, Creating Conversations, Redondo Beach, Calif.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown: A Novel by Talia Hibbert (Avon, $15.99, 9780062941237). "Take a Hint, Dani Brown is a heartwarming romance that shines a light in dark times. Talia Hibbert normalizes quirks, coping mechanisms, and other human conditions that can get glossed over in a happily ever after. She makes it clear that verbalizing needs, sharing them with a loved one, and having them accepted is the true meaning of love. The depth of the characters and their struggles to come together are wonderfully balanced with charm, humor, and a large dollop of sarcasm. Take a Hint, Dani Brown is a delight." --Julie Karaganis, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, Mass.

For Ages 4 to 8
Doctor Who: The Runaway TARDIS by Kim Smith (Quirk Books, $18.99, 9781683691846). "This is a cute introduction into the world of Doctor Who for the children in your life. With bright, fun cartoon illustrations, it is something that everyone can enjoy flipping through. There is a great storyline about how it is okay to say goodbye to old friends, and to make new ones as well. Plus, you have the fun of seeing the power of peanut butter sandwiches. I loved reading this book and look forward to sharing it with my niece, who also happens to love peanut butter sandwiches."--Markie Rustad, Ballast Book Company, Bremerton, Wash.

For Ages 9 to 12
I Hate Reading: How to Read When You'd Rather Not by Beth Bacon (Harper, $12.99, 9780062962522). "I Hate Reading is pure genius! Its bold, intriguing title and cover grab readers immediately. It is full of kid-endorsed advice for those who prefer not to read but are forced to. This wildly appealing gem is great fun--and a reminder that kids become eager readers one terrific book at a time. I Hate Reading is the perfect start." --Christopher Rose, The Spirit of '76 Bookstore, Marblehead, Mass.

For Teen Readers
Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye (Random House, $17.99, 9780593126035). "Date Me, Bryson Keller is a gloriously satisfying gay teen coming-of-age love story with characters you'll think about long after you put the book down (and you won't want to put it down until you've read every word--I didn't). The narrator, the closeted, gay, mixed-race Kai Sheridan, impulsively takes advantage of a dare to ask out ultra-popular Bryson Keller, who has been dared to spend each week dating the first person who asks him out on Monday morning. Could this possibly lead to the real thing? Highly recommended." --Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books, Okemos, Mich.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Harrow the Ninth

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (Tor, $26.99 hardcover, 512p., 9781250313225, August 4, 2020)

Harrow the Ninth has a tough act to follow in 2019's deranged, electrifyingly fun Gideon the Ninth, but the middle chapter in Tamsyn Muir's Locked Tomb Trilogy is every bit as wild and weird as its delightful predecessor. Following the events of the first book, Muir shifts protagonists to follow the necromancer Harrowhark as she joins a cohort dedicated to assisting the godlike Emperor in fighting strange cosmic entities.

Muir has not lost her penchant for throwing readers in the deep end, and some incomprehension is to be expected on their part. In fact, Harrow the Ninth is purposefully disorienting even, or perhaps especially, for diehard fans of the first book: the novel bounces back and forth in time, retelling events from the first book with noticeable differences that grow more glaring over time. Whereas Gideon the Ninth welded the structure of a locked-room mystery to its saga of necromancers and their sword-wielding escorts in an ancient, crumbling space-tomb, Harrow the Ninth plunges confidently into a mind-bending puzzle box structure. There is plenty of satisfaction in piecing things together, but it's not just an exercise in cleverness: Muir has much to say about denial and the dangers of suppressing grief, building to an emotional conclusion that will melt the hardest of hearts.

Harrow is very different from Gideon, more interior and decidedly less raunchy. That does not mean the series has suddenly become strait-laced or lost any of Muir's sardonic wit. Muir likes to puncture her own odd and highly detailed worldbuilding with a quip, as when one character explains: "A stele is eight feet tall, covered in the dead languages by special Fifth adepts, and continually bathed in oxygenated blood.... The type of thing where, if there is one on board, you say quite soon, 'Oh, look, a stele!' " Plus, Muir continues her streak of best-in-class fight scenes, pushing the limits of her necromantic imagination to disgusting new heights.

Harrow the Ninth carries over all the strengths of its predecessor, in other words, including the verbal sparring and ever-entertaining insults: "you bursting organ, you wretched, self-regarding hypochondriac and half-fermented corpse with the nails still on." Harrow the Ninth delves even deeper into the vulnerabilities of Muir's damaged characters, whose posturing can't hide their hang-ups and death wishes and terrible regrets. Few books can be this funny, sad and romantic all at the same time. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine

Shelf Talker: Harrow the Ninth is a worthy sequel to Gideon the Ninth, expanding Tamsyn Muir's grotesque world of necromancers and skeletons within an unpredictable puzzle box structure.

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