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THE DREAMER AND THE MARKED

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

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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DEVOLUTION

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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