Books by Derek Benz

Released: May 1, 2011

"There's a lot better out there than this. (Steampunk. 11-13)"
A teeming cast, a mare's nest of plotlines and characters with ambiguous agendas muddle this sequel to The Brimstone Key (2010). Read full book review >
Released: June 7, 2010

Aiming to be a steampunk action/adventure with a faerie element and a side of gaming, this opener of the second Grey Griffins series is a congested mess of overwritten prose, weak descriptions and inflated dangers. The four Griffins (three boys, plus one girl to ask questions, be prissy and get taken down a peg) are a monster-fighting team aided by magical and military adults. Technology and magic overflow, from Max's transformable codex/ring/gauntlet-weapon to wireless cameras and long-distance imaging, laptops, clockworks, cogs, robotics and soul-stealing. A clockwork king from the past is kidnapping faerie changelings, potentially including one Griffin and one close friend, but weapons are too easily deployed and too quickly successful for battles and victories to resonate. Gadget and scene descriptions are slapdash, Arthurian references inexplicable. Perspective shifts lazily, and ornate substitutions for "said" are distracting and often inaccurate (" ‘Cheer up,' Todd noted"). Prose is purple ("She was thin, fitting into her clothes like a blade into a starched scabbard") and redundant ("a round globe"). Sloppy all around. (Fantasy. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2008

The Grey Griffins series continues in this middle-of-the-road fantasy adventure. Since acquiring the Spear of Ragnarok, Max's megalomaniac father Lord Sumner is planning to destroy the world. Murderous trolls attack Max on the highway, while homicidal shapeshifting werewolves replace lunch ladies and pizza boys. Only the Knights of the Templar can defeat Lord Sumner, but they are being massacred all around the world. Even Max's mentor Iver appears to be dead. Trained by a new—and much less sympathetic—mentor, Max and his friends plan to sneak into the Underworld to save the world. Max's journey is full of plot holes, flat characters, awkward prose and trite conclusions, but the fast-paced adventure will entertain fantasy readers. (Fantasy. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2007

The war between good and evil is entangled in the war between Max Sumner's estranged parents in this sequel to The Revenge of the Shadow King (2006). Max and his friends, the Grey Griffins, are off to spend Christmas at Sumner Castle, Max's billionaire father's home in Scotland. Before they even arrive at the castle, the Griffins are embroiled once again in the faerie war when their plane is attacked by Kobolds. Though Max's father doesn't have any time to spend with the children when they finally arrive, they have plenty to fill their days: searching for a mysterious witching well, fighting loathsome Bog Beasts and questing for the Spear of Ragnarok. When Max's father is kidnapped by minions of the evil "Morgan LaFey," Max's loyalty is torn between the forces of light and his need to rescue his father. This amalgam of Norse mythology, Arthurian legends, the Dracula story and others is chaotic and somewhat incoherent—but the fast-paced adventure and slightly gross-out magic will keep some readers enthralled. (Fantasy. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2006

A collectible card game introduces Max and his friends to the battle against ancient evil in this undistinguished but entertaining series opener. Grandfatherly shopkeeper Iver has sold the four a rare card game in which they fight goblins, faeries and the powerful Shadow King. It's only a game at first, but soon their town of Avalon, Minn. is plagued with horrors. Max finds a magical book, real goblins attack and Iver vanishes. Along with spunky Natalia, poor Harley and cowardly Ernie, Max determines to defeat the Shadow King. Luckily, he's the one true heir to powerful magical ability, born to make a stand in the age-old fight against evil—perhaps in the Gothic temple in town, built by Templars 500 years before Europeans came to the New World. Constant danger and some humor keep this adventure moving despite clunky prose. Not a bad option for fans of the genre. (Fantasy. 9-12)Read full book review >