The Eternal Hourglass
Nick Rostov has grown up in Las Vegas, living in hotels where his dad performs as a stage magician. On his thirteenth birthday his grandfather gives him something that belonged to his mother, who died when he was just a baby. Then Nick unexpectedly moves in with a whole branch of his family that he didn’t even know existed. They are Russian and own the most fabulous hotel in Las Vegas, The Winter Palace, where it snows all the time! He learns that the magician who performs there, the most famous act in the city, is actually a cousin of his and wants Nick to perform in the show with him. He also learns that unlike his dad’s show, this one uses real magic. And that while the family is fantastic and powerful, there is a branch of it that is equally powerful, but also evil and searching for something. Something Nick might be able to get.
The Eternal Hourglass is the first in the Magickeeper series and so a lot of the story sets up the history and setting, things that won’t need as much establishing later on. A great deal of the tale is centered on the rich Russian history that makes up the family’s past so that while learning that history is definitely giving us a good picture of the family itself, it’s also moving forward the story. This is a big plus for this book because it could very easily have gotten bogged down by that same history, like many first-in-series books do. The setting, the show and Las Vegas itself, serve to keep things grounded in the present when the main character is often getting visions of the past. The two things, the history and the very modern setting, make a surprisingly good pairing.
Kirov is an excellent writer. Her biggest strength is her ability to describe lavish settings without lavish descriptions. This sounds odd, but it actually is a great thing for a book like this. If the descriptions get too detailed and intense they can bog down this type of story, one that is so reliant on different ways of moving forward (from visions in crystal balls to terrifying fight scenes). The settings are very important here, though, and it’s crucial that they don’t get lost or glossed over. Kirov does a great job of balancing these needs and gives us a wonderful idea of what the places described (from the two very different hotels to even the desert itself) look and feel like without ever spending too much time on those descriptions.
I really enjoyed reading this book and I’m very much looking forward to more from this series. It is a creative and unusual story in the incredibly prolific genre that children’s fantasy has become recently. Nick is a fun character and his fantastic family are interesting and full of potential for more amazing stories (especially with all the empty cases in their magic vault). This series has a great magical feel, but is nicely different from much of what is already available. The fantastic setting, creative use of the rich history and skillful writing make this a stand-out title in children’s fantasy.
The Pyramid of Souls
Since the events of The Eternal Hourglass, Nick has grown more accustomed to his new family and his new life at the Winter Palace (except for the food). His magic has improved and his friendship with his cousin Isabella has grown stronger. As magicians from around the world arrive at the Winter Palace for the yearly magic conference held there, however, it becomes clear that the Shadowkeepers are preparing to strike again. This time the mysterious Pyramid of Souls, the key to the very souls of the Magickeepers themselves, is at stake. With his growing powers and some newfound friends from Egypt, Nick will have to find a way to retrieve the Pyramid and save the Magickeepers trapped inside.
Much like the first book, this one was a lot of fun. Kirov spent less time illustrating the Winter Palace and Las Vegas for her readers in this book and instead focused on deepening the personalities of the lead characters. Isabella in particular became considerably more fully fleshed out in this volume. I felt like the plot of this book was not quite as strong as the plot of The Eternal Hourglass, but it was still a pretty good plot. The book also managed to help build the world and history of magic more, which is very important in a series like this, and so a plot-weak volume isn’t that bad.
Kirov’s prose is delightful and she writes about the stage performances and rehearsals particularly well. I could really feel the energy and tension in some of her performance scenes. Since those scenes tend to be pivotal to the plot and placed at key points throughout the book, this did a lot to help guide the flow of energy throughout the book as well. I wasn’t sure after the first book how much I would want to continue reading this series, but after reading this volume I’m certain that I’d keep reading more and that I’d recommend this series without qualm to anyone who enjoys novel fantasies.
This book very much depends on the reader having read the first volume, The Eternal Hourglass, but it is still an enjoyable book in it’s own right and hopefully Kirov will continue this series in the future. Nick and Isabella are fun, engaging characters and the Las Vegas setting is different and goes a long way to provide a mood and feel for the series that is quite unique. I’d like to see Isabella get a more active role in the plot itself in future books, but Kirov has so far done a great job of generally keeping her a strong and appealing character despite her needing to be rescued in this volume. I will definitely keep my eye out for more from this series and from this author.