The Eternal Hourglass, by Erica Kirov

The Eternal Hourglass, the first book in Erica Kirov’s Magickeepers series, introduces readers to a tantalizing new fantasy world. Kirov’s protagonist is Nick Rostov, the teenage son of the worst stage magician in Vegas. On his 13th birthday, Nick discovers that his mother belonged to a family of powerful Russian magicians, and he appears to have inherited her gifts. When his maternal relatives learn Nick’s powers have awoken, they promptly haul him off to the family lair: the top floor of the Winter Palace Hotel and Casino, one of the most successful attractions on the Strip. Nick’s initial confusion rapidly changes to anger when his newfound cousins expect him to take part in their world-famous magic show... and he’s even more disturbed when they expect him to use real magic in the act.

The liveliest scenes in The Eternal Hourglass feature Nick’s unenthusiastic response to his family’s colorful Russian heritage. Rather than allowing Nick time to adjust to his new life, his relatives expect him to immediately abandon skateboarding, cheeseburgers, and TV in favor of caviar, piroshki, and learning the Cyrillic alphabet. It’s rare to encounter a protagonist with such a strong cultural identity; most kids in genre fiction (particularly fantasy) seem to come from either a completely generic big city or an equally generic small town*. Finding a book that allows the protagonist’s family background to play a solid supporting role was a welcome surprise.

Unfortunately, Kirov doesn’t take her “Magical Russians! In Vegas!! With Tigers!!!” vibe far enough. Despite featuring everything from enchanted polar bears to a showdown between Rasputin and Houdini, The Eternal Hourglass never goes nuts with the action and drama—and it totally should. Characters are underdeveloped, unhappy romances are only hinted at, descriptive passages are too brief. Luckily, these can all be fixed in the next installment. The Eternal Hourglass is an excellent start, but we’re hoping the next book in this series takes its cue from Las Vegas and decides to go for broke: more trained beasts, more fight scenes, more star-crossed romance, more everything, and all positively soaked in glitter.

*There are plenty of YA novels about kids with strong cultural identities, sure, but those novels usually make the central characters’ feelings about their heritage the primary focus of the story. (Think Tina Grimberg's Out of Line, or Tanuja Desai Hidier's Born Confused.)
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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