"A fast paced, emotionally nuanced page-turner."– Kirkus Reviews
In Hiatt’s (The Devil Hath the Power, 2016, etc.) fantasy novel, a Korean-American man discovers long-dormant supernatural abilities and finds that an evil sorcerer wants his blood.
DL works as an auto mechanic at Al’s Garage in the small town of Le Dragon, Wisconsin. His Korean name, Daelun Yong Lee, translates to the awkward “Different Dragon Lee.” However, he wants nothing to do with Korean culture, mostly because he’s disassociated himself from his parents, who abandoned him as an infant. But there’s something else in his past he can’t ignore: he has a particular type of blood that affords him supernatural abilities, starting with superstrength and the ability to see in the dark. His powers appear to have been ignited by his one-night stand with Ekaterina Dragwyla, who turns out be a centuries-old preternatural being. Unfortunately, a man named R?zvan Bey (aka “the Collector”) has plans to obtain the blood of both DL and Ekaterina. Bey gets leverage against DL by going after high school senior Max Murphy, a part-timer at Al’s Garage whom DL sees as a little brother. Things escalate when cops suspect DL in a murder committed by Bey. The mechanic searches for allies, and he gains a few of the supernatural variety, including a faerie, a sorceress ghost, and even a vampire. They face off against Bey and his minions in a battle that entails traveling to various places via magical portals, and not everyone will come out of it alive. Hiatt’s protagonist is initially unlikable (he bluntly tells Ekaterina that she wasn’t “that good in bed,” for example), but he gradually becomes more appealing through his heroic behavior. For example, his valiant desire to keep Max safe extends to protecting Max’s parents, as well. The story playfully hints at its fantasy elements before they actually surface; for instance, a local bar is called Dragon’s Lair. There are also copious mystical characters, most of whom are introduced in the lengthy but action-laden final act. However, DL too often draws on his movie knowledge for methods to defeat villains, which generally prove successful; this makes him seem more lucky than skilled, and causes the narrative to unnecessarily rely on genre clichés.
A mostly sturdy foundation for a fantasy series that arms its hero with powers, sidekicks, and motivation.
Supernatural and mythical beings enliven this latest installment in Hiatt’s (Evil Within Yourselves, 2015, etc.) Spell Weaver action-adventure series.
About five hours away from Santa Brigada, where Tal Weaver and his allies have come to terms with their past lives and their amazing abilities, the teenage Lucas struggles to accept his own freakish talents and psychic visions. He fears the scorn he would face from his peers if his secrets were discovered, which would make the former challenges he experienced as a dancer seem inconsequential by comparison. But when a trained assassin from the shadow world targets him in order to complete her training, his worries take a back seat to his efforts to save his life and family. He’s alternately helped and hindered by a mysterious stranger identifying herself at different times as his grandmother, his great-grandmother, or possibly his mother. Whomever she is, she’s of Encantado origin, like him, and she manages to connect Lucas with Tal and his friends. The group soon finds itself embroiled in conflict with a rapidly growing shadow army. The battle is complicated by a discovery that the initial shadow assassin isn’t what she first appeared to be, and her true identity raises moral questions. The fast-paced action that typifies Hiatt’s work is evident here, but there’s also time for nuanced emotions to develop, such as Lucas’ desire to be known and accepted. By giving new characters control of the narrative, the author revitalizes the series while remaining true to its roots. In particular, he preserves the series’ enjoyably suggestive overtones (“I'm not just descended from weredolphins, but from horny weredolphins!”) and pithy, clever comments (“backyards so small and narrow that if you put in a hot tub, no one could walk from one end of the yard to the other without wading part of the way”). The relative brevity of this installment makes for a tauter, more intense presentation, although the conclusion feels somewhat arbitrary and abrupt, and the setup for the next book seems too overt. Overall, though, this novel is another satisfying addition to the Spell Weaver tales.
A deft mix of history, mythology, and coming-of-age themes.
The latest installment in Hiatt’s (Hidden among Yourselves, 2015, etc.) Spell Weaver fantasy-adventure series.
After braving the Underworld on a seemingly impossible quest to obtain the lyre of Orpheus, fighting a stunning array of otherworldly and mythical beings along the way, Taliesin “Tal” Weaver and his allies could be forgiven for wanting a break. But this latest installment continues the frenetic action. Titania, queen of the English faeries, seeks Tal’s help to prove the innocence of her husband, Oberon, the faerie king who tried to kill Tal by sending him on the lyre quest. Despite this fact, Tal is willing to investigate, but his attention is soon diverted by the malignant machinations of Nicneven, the queen of the Scottish faeries. She’s allied herself with the forces of darkness and therefore wields tremendous power. There’s also a traitor in Tal’s midst whose identity will shake the adventurer to his very core. This latest novel adds more overt references to religion, particularly Christianity, as St. Brendan and St. Sebastian join in the action. The novel bounces between different characters’ points of view, which adds welcome depth, although their voices are sometimes too stridently different from one another. Overall, though, Hiatt’s engaging style remains strong, and his sharp wit continues to shine. Unfortunately, as in the previous novel, this installment sacrifices emotional complexity to plot twists and new adventures; as a result, romantic couplings and uncouplings among the team members provide little heat or interest. However, one beautiful scene, in which parents take time to secretly watch their resurrected son play baseball, stands as a reminder of how skillful Hiatt can be with nuanced interactions.
Another mix of action, adventure, teen angst, and literary allusion, although the results are less satisfying than before.
Another engaging fantasy adventure from Hiatt (A Parent’s Guide to Parent-Teacher Communication, 2014, etc.) about the teenage Taliesin “Tal” Weaver and his motley band, featuring supernatural beings, reincarnated leaders and a magical mom.
Ever since a spell made Tal aware of dozens of his past lives (in 2012’s Living with Your Past Selves), he’s had to deal with repeated threats to his life and safety. Still, even he’s surprised when, leaving soccer practice one day, he’s confronted by a classmate who’s in league with Ares, the Greek god of war. That’s just the start of Tal’s troubles: in short order, he tangles with a shape-shifter and learns new information about his mother’s psychic powers. Complicating things further, he finds out that he must face Morgan Le Fay in a trial by combat. Unexpected sabotage disrupts the trial, though, which culminates in Tal embarking on an epic quest to find the lyre of Orpheus. The journey will require the skills of all his allies, and will take him to Olympus, the underworld and beyond. He’ll also meet an enemy whom he vastly underestimated in the past. The fast-paced action and snappy witticisms that enlivened the previous books in Hiatt’s Spell Weaver series still shine here (“Great, now I get to make history as the first participant of a trial by combat who has to bring his mommy with him!” Tal says at one point). However, there are occasional instances of overwrought prose (“a voice that cut like a dagger chilled in the heart of a glacier”). The nearly nonstop battle scenes sacrifice the novel’s emotional complexity and poignancy, and moments of foreshadowing tends to be surprisingly heavy-handed. Still, there’s no denying the sheer reading pleasure of this series, and this book is no exception. Hiatt has mastered the art of creating innovative situations that conform to the rules of his invented worlds. The pace builds steadily to a coherent conclusion, which still leaves room for future Spell Weaver books.
Hiatt’s formula for success holds true in this latest fantasy installment, which features rich literary allusion, swift pacing, crisp dialogue and inventive plotting.
An action-packed tale of reincarnated Arthurian characters living as teenagers.
In an engaging sequel to Hiatt’s (Living with Your Past Selves, 2012) rollicking debut, this tale tells of young Taliesin Weaver, who suddenly becomes aware of dozens of his past lives and his accompanying magical powers. The evil Morgan LeFay is back and searching for her sorceress sister, Alcina, who’s trying to lay claim to the body of Carla, a young girl in a coma. Of course, Tal and his allies would rather see their friend Carla remain in control of her own body. Thus begins an epic battle, with fighting in California, the mystical land of Annwn and a previously undiscovered land. There are dragons, faerie archers, hostile marine life, animated foliage, shifting alliances, unexpected betrayals, even a ghost. It turns out that Tal’s friend Stan is the reincarnation of a powerful, unexpected historical figure. And as if adolescent romance weren’t already difficult enough, a potent love spell cast on Tal is virtually impossible to break. Hiatt also adds a wonderfully appealing new sidekick for Tal and his allies: a prepubescent boy with supernatural powers explained in the Quran. Despite all the action and the superhuman characters, the story never loses sight of the human element; scenes between Tal and his mother, who is beginning to develop magic powers of her own, are particularly poignant, as is a love triangle reminiscent of the original tales of Camelot. The minor editing errors that plagued the first book are again present, but the overall quality is there, helped by the type of sparkling humor that enlivened Hiatt’s first book: “Anyway, after what seemed like an eternity—or at least, like an algebra class”; “The tone was vaguely disquieting and more than a little sexual. Great! What was it that made me so attractive to homicidal spell casters?” Readers need not have tackled the first book to follow the storyline here, though there’s no reason to forgo the pleasure, as the series seems to be living up to its early promise.
A top-notch mix of action, adventure and romance with a generous helping of literary allusion.
Debut author Hiatt offers an engrossing coming-of-age story richly infused with ancient mythology and Arthurian tales.
When California teenager Taliesin Weaver begins speaking medieval Welsh in his sleep, his friend Stan knows something odd is afoot. Stan discovers that Taliesin has been reincarnated dozens of times and has suddenly become aware of all his past lives. Soon they (and a widening circle of their friends) are confronting shapeshifters, battling with medieval knights and seeking to disrupt a shadowy conspiracy. As Taliesin tries to incorporate his past selves into his current one, he tries to save his friends and his town from supernatural destruction—and he still doesn’t have a date for Homecoming. Hiatt has created a memorable and engaging character in Taliesen—a hormonal 16-year-old with the accumulated wisdom of thousands of years. Supporting characters are equally engaging, including the “epically hot” school nurse who is also a dream walker and shaman, and town founder Carrie Winn who may be an archenemy or a protector. The novel’s pacing is swift and sure, and Hiatt writes with humor (“Stan…was like a kid at Christmas, or, well, actually Hanukkah, if you want to get technical. Unfortunately, his mother was a little more like the Grinch”) and poignancy (“I wanted to tell my dad that the boy was dead, but that I was alive, and I needed him, I needed him to love me, not some memory that hung between us like a pale, dull fog”). Occasional misspelled words detract somewhat, but the overall quality of the book outshines such minor missteps, as the intensity builds to an action-packed and bittersweet conclusion.
A fast-paced, emotionally nuanced page-turner.
In this continuation of a fantasy adventure series, the recurring teen protagonist and his allies set out to rescue Olympian gods.
It seems someone’s determined to abduct 16-year-old Taliesin “Tal” Weaver and friends. Tal, after remembering his past lives, acquired supernatural abilities and has since slowly formed a group of peers, like half-djinni Khalid, all with powers and/or mystical weapons. Tal’s friend Jimmie Stevens narrowly avoids capture by uniformed men, but his older brother, Dan, isn’t so lucky. Others from the group are missing, but Jimmie locates a few who gather at Tal’s magically secure abode. Tal shows up, too, but thanks to a spell someone’s cast on him, he’s regressed to his 12-year-old self and can’t recall the last four years, including combat training. Something supernatural is after them, using powers to control some of their friends and attack the still-liberated group. They’ll have to trust Dark Me, Tal’s spell-empowered evil alter ego, who has Tal’s magical capabilities and willingly helps since he needs Tal’s blood to maintain his existence. The friends traverse dangerous planes and battle creatures to free their imprisoned cohorts as well as the Olympians trapped in their own world. Hiatt’s (Different Lee, 2016, etc.) newest series entry is a solid mix of what the preceding five volumes offered: drama and action. Despite supernatural components, there’s a relatable theme of redemption; Dark Me’s proven himself a villain in the past but did originate from generally wholesome Tal, so he might be good. The book’s latter half, meanwhile, is primarily action, as Tal, et al., wage war against formidable evil. While Hiatt graciously provides context for new readers, there’s so much among so many characters that it initially bogs down the narrative. But the story picks up once the group has a clear goal—get to Olympus. Meanwhile, the assembly of characters never becomes confusing, even after Dark Me and 12-year-old Tal adopt new names (Magnus and Michael, respectively).
A diverting supernatural tale that should satisfy returning readers and those just getting to know the young hero.