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Alexander

A fantasy that saddles endearing characters with humdrum domesticity.

A sequel further explores the romantic bond between a human and a dragon.

In the realm of Gilifland, the swordsman Akron travels with his dragon master, Emerald, through driving, frigid rain. Emerald is a lovely humanoid dragon, and an entire clan of dragon folks large and small moves with the duo. Mercifully, the band locates a magical cottage set up by pixies, with vast stores of clothing, food, and weaponry. At the cottage, Akron regroups around his infant dragon son, Alexander, and plans countermaneuvers against King James, a power-hungry ruler with his sights set on the surrounding kingdoms. Under the cozy environs, a young, single dragon named Alaw tries to devote herself to Akron. Emerald is shaken by this challenge and finally tells Akron, “I’m in love with you.” Their bond strengthened, the couple fly—courtesy of the gigantic Adelhied—deeper into Gilifland and encounter Sir Akir and Sir Balloch of the Black Company. The knights escort Akron and Emerald to the court of the Queens Antonia and Grace. There, Emerald’s long-held secret is revealed, and Akron learns the truth about his lineage. Together, the two just might teach the world that love transcends any barrier between species. Continuing his atypical fantasy saga, Gordon (Emerald, 2015) brings numerous genre trappings to what is at heart a series of domestic vignettes. The narrative elements—like a grasping king, magic, and imperial spies—imply adventure. Yet the bulk of the story describes clan relations, including Akron’s parents, Iona and Ailill, and social progress, as when the swordsman teaches Emerald to write her own name. While this seems geared toward YA audiences, Gordon emphasizes sex a lot, as in Akron’s line: “I have wanted to feel your scales press on my” naked body. “It’s finer than any leather.” Casual swearing coarsens the piece further. Adults will laud the author’s focus on child abandonment but may grow frustrated by his tendency to fill the plot with extended fireside chats within the main arc. Like its predecessor, this tale has the engine of an epic but is content to putt along.

A fantasy that saddles endearing characters with humdrum domesticity.

Pub Date: June 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5434-0042-7

Page Count: 490

Publisher: XlibrisAU

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

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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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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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