A crafty, twist-laden tale that effectively introduces a complex fantasy series.

THE DREAMER AND THE MARKED

In this debut fantasy, a young woman dreams of a magical realm and learns about her connection to it.

Krystal Monarain is an amateur photographer who works at Dahlia’s Tea and Book Shoppe in Colorado. Lately, she’s been dreaming of a manor filled with fantastical individuals who are unable to see her. One night, a man with half of his face badly scarred does spot her. This is Draqa, loyal employee to Gov. Sius Mavell Evi. Draqa explains to Krystal that she’s “soul-traveling” to the fae world of Arai and that she must be half fae. Krystal is stunned because she does indeed have pointed ears that she hides beneath her hair. As they enjoy each other’s company, Draqa suggests visiting her world of Taevalear one day—just before an alarm clock wakes her. Krystal resumes her humdrum life until one day, at an outdoor market, she encounters Draqa. He’s arrived via a secret forest Gate. She learns more from him, including that she shares her surname with a minister who was assassinated 24 years ago. More information whets Krystal’s appetite for adventure, but Draqa is forbidden from bringing anyone through the Gate. When she sneaks through after him, Krystal discovers entanglements of which she’s never dreamed. Fenn’s fantasy series opener adds pleasant twists to several genre tropes, including that Arai is not a medieval world but is on pace technologically with Taevalear. There are, for example, solar panel devices known as sonnesand personal communication devices called aspectacasters. Unfortunately, Arai also features prejudice against groups like the “yilura,” who can be jailed for “shapeshifting without a permit.” Casual readers may feel inundated by the narrative’s political aspects, which arrive in force early on. Patience is needed as the story arc of Ambassador Javis Zevos slowly intertwines with that of the protagonists. Krystal’s relationship with Javis changes as she begins dreaming of his tragic past, which reveals a battered soul. And while Draqa is often appalling, as when he says, “A random child is not that important,” the author carefully redeems him. A surprising epilogue foreshadows darker happenings in the sequel.

A crafty, twist-laden tale that effectively introduces a complex fantasy series.

Pub Date: April 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-578-38842-7

Page Count: 452

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Combine Straub's usual warmth and insight with the fun of time travel and you have a winner.

THIS TIME TOMORROW

A woman who's been drifting through life wakes up the morning after her 40th birthday to discover that she's just turned 16 again.

Alice Stern wouldn't say she's unhappy. She lives in a studio apartment in Brooklyn; has a job in the admissions office of the Upper West Side private school she attended as a kid; still hangs out with Sam, her childhood best friend; and has a great relationship with her father, Leonard, the famous author of a time-travel novel, Time Brothers. Alice's mother left her and Leonard when Alice was a kid, and father and daughter formed a tight, loving unit along with their freakishly long-lived cat, Ursula. But now Leonard is in a coma, and as she visits him in the hospital every day, Alice is forced to reckon with her life. After a drunken birthday evening with Sam, Alice returns to her childhood house on Pomander Walk, a one-block-long gated street running between two avenues on the UWS—but when she wakes up the next morning, she hears Leonard in the kitchen and finds herself heading off to SAT tutoring and preparing for her 16th birthday party that night. Straub's novel has echoes of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town: Every prosaic detail of her earlier life is almost unbearably poignant to Alice, and the chance to spend time with her father is priceless. As she moves through her day, she tries to figure out how to get back to her life as a 40-year-old and whether there's anything she can do in the past to improve her future—and save her father's life. As always, Straub creates characters who feel fully alive, exploring the subtleties of their thoughts, feelings, and relationships. It's hard to say more without giving away the delightful surprises of the book's second half, but be assured that Straub's time-travel shenanigans are up there with Kate Atkinson's Life After Life and the TV show Russian Doll.

Combine Straub's usual warmth and insight with the fun of time travel and you have a winner.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-525-53900-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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