A bit jumbled, but entertaining and potentially a good start for a series offering a different take on the undead craze.

MOONSHINE

Good-hearted advocate of vampire rights negotiates the mean streets of 1920s Manhattan.

Johnson (Racing The Dark, 2007, etc.) takes a break from speculative fiction for young adults in this first volume of a projected series that populates an alternate world with some colorful characters and clever ideas. The author imagines jazz-age New York as a city in which vampires and other supernatural denizens stalk the same streets as entertainers like Josephine Baker or the corrupt politicians of Tammany Hall. Our narrator is feisty Zephyr Hollis, daughter of a famous monster-hunter, who has reinvented herself in the city as a social organizer and teacher. Zephyr preaches tolerance of nonhumans but carries a silver switchblade to protect herself from the nightlife, despite a natural immunity to vampires. Among her interesting companions are ambitious tabloid reporter Lily Harding, progressive activist Iris Tomkins and, most dangerously, Amir the Djinn, a genie whose interest in Zephyr sums her up nicely. “You are a bit of a contradiction, aren’t you?” he says. “A wholesome Montanan girl comes to the city, dabbles in demon hunting and then reinvents herself as a martyr to the poor and disenfranchised?” Before long Zephyr is tracking a newly turned vampire child and reluctantly helping Amir hunt down Rinaldo Sanguinetti, the vampire boss of Little Italy, whose gang of “Turn Boys” terrorizes the streets. Adding to the tension is a new phenomenon dubbed the “Faustian Nightmare,” an onslaught of vampires addicted to a vicious new street drug. Johnson’s lively narrative has some faults. Anachronistic contemporary language occasionally belies the ’20s setting. Laurell K. Hamilton’s books (Incubus Dreams, 2004, etc.) are far racier, while Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt series (Half the Blood of Brooklyn, 2007, etc.) has more grit. Nevertheless, the inventive, reasonably well-researched setting and obvious historical parallels mostly work to the novel’s advantage.

A bit jumbled, but entertaining and potentially a good start for a series offering a different take on the undead craze.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-56547-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 47

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more