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A mixed bag with a misshapen boulder in it.

The first short story collection from the author of several iconic graphic novels and comic-book series.

When a comic-book writer switches to prose only, they might have trouble conjuring the fleshed-out descriptions usually provided by pictures. But Moore, creator of such legendary graphic works as Watchmen and V for Vendetta, has never had this problem. His works typically include several picture-light text extracts, and if Moore’s debut novel—the sprawling Jerusalem (2016)—is anything to go by, the difficulty is getting him to stop his flow of words. One might hope, then, that the restrictive length of a short story would provide some necessary structure. This collection definitely includes some tight, clever, and vivid entries, including “Not Even Legend,” about a cabal of mythological creatures prepared to go to any lengths to ensure that ordinary humans never get a hint of their existence; “Hypothetical Lizard,” which chronicles a brothel worker’s nasty revenge on his former lover; “Location, Location, Location,” concerning a real estate agent officially signing over a house to Jesus after the Rapture; and “And, at the Last, Just To Be Done With Silence,” a creepy tale of madness-inducing penance in the late 12th century. The title story, in which a man longs to recapture his youth, and “Cold Reading,” which features a successful fake medium who learns the perils of disbelief, have an entertaining if slightly derivative Twilight Zone vibe. But Moore goes off the rails with “What We Can Know About Thunderman,” the book's longest work, taking up fully half the pages. It’s a self-indulgently savage lampoon of the comic-book industry, wandering over several decades, taking the occasional clever potshot, very occasionally affirming the way that comic books and comic-book conventions can bring lonely nerds together, and frequently veering into the grotesque, petty, and bizarre. The story never has any clear destination other than to suggest that the industry is a cesspool that’s impossible to escape in any clean way. The well-informed reader will infer that Moore is still extremely angry at DC for a number of intellectual property issues, remains upset with the way Warner Brothers adapted his works for film, and isn’t exactly happy with Marvel, either.

A mixed bag with a misshapen boulder in it.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63557-880-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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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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From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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