A fantasy novel about the clash of good and evil that fails to capture the imagination.


In Hay’s debut YA fantasy series starter, a young warrior must choose between two opposing masters.

Eighteen-year-old Aria has grown up on a compound controlled by Keriggor, a powerful spirit-being who raids villages to capture humans, like her, who have spiritual connections. The other members of her family didn’t serve Keriggor’s needs, so they were murdered long ago by the magician’s Shadowers—demonic creatures with alligator faces. Aria, however, is Keriggor’s servant, bearing his dark mark on her forehead, and he’s been grooming her as his apprentice. Just as Aria is about to make a covenant binding herself to Keriggor forever, she experiences a vision of a different, kinder being: a man named Eli who tells her that he’s a king. She manages to escape Keriggor’s compound under the protection of Eli’s spirit. Now, for the first time that she can remember, she’s on her own in a wintry wilderness, and she only has Eli to guide her. After months of travel, she meets Daven and his friends—rangers in the service of Corinnia, a city under the king’s protection. She’s granted asylum there, but it’s clear from the outset that most of its residents don’t fully trust her. Indeed, they’re right to doubt her, for Keriggor’s influence on her still lingers, and she isn’t quite ready to fully commit herself to Eli. As she’s pulled back and forth between the two figures—who are influenced, at times, by others who serve them—Aria isn’t sure what she wants for herself. She’ll have to decide sooner rather than later, as in the inevitable battle to come, she’ll be forced to pick a side.

Over the course of this book, Hay’s prose is simple yet atmospheric in style, and it illuminates a world where the spiritual and physical exist side by side. At one point, for instance, Aria marvels at her first physical meeting with Eli: “After claiming to be a king, one would assume a spirit would manifest itself in a way that conveyed such a title, but there was nothing majestic in his physical appearance….To human eyes, his plain features and simple attire made him seem insignificant.” Aria is portrayed as feisty and willful—in fact, she’s a bit reminiscent of the Game of Thrones character with the similar name of Arya—and she brings a recognizably human perspective to this allegory of good and evil. It’s an allegory, however, that feels rather on-the-nose; disappointingly, the book’s moral complexity is no greater than that of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, so there’s no real sense of suspense surrounding Aria’s ultimate decision. Although the use of such a Manichaean framework doesn’t always make for an uninteresting plot, Hay fails to embellish hers with intriguing secondary characters or a truly immersive setting. As a result, there simply isn’t enough in these pages to hold readers’ interest, and Aria’s actions feel far less urgent than they should.

A fantasy novel about the clash of good and evil that fails to capture the imagination.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 174

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2021

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Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s.


A slightly abridged graphic version of the classic that will drive off all but the artist’s most inveterate fans.

Admirers of the original should be warned away by veteran horror artist Bernie Wrightson’s introductory comments about Grimly’s “wonderfully sly stylization” and the “twinkle” in his artistic eye. Most general readers will founder on the ensuing floods of tiny faux handwritten script that fill the opening 10 pages of stage-setting correspondence (other lengthy letters throughout are presented in similarly hard-to-read typefaces). The few who reach Victor Frankenstein’s narrative will find it—lightly pruned and, in places, translated into sequences of largely wordless panels—in blocks of varied length interspersed amid sheaves of cramped illustrations with, overall, a sickly, greenish-yellow cast. The latter feature spidery, often skeletal figures that barrel over rough landscapes in rococo, steampunk-style vehicles when not assuming melodramatic poses. Though the rarely seen monster is a properly hard-to-resolve jumble of massive rage and lank hair, Dr. Frankenstein looks like a decayed Lyle Lovett with high cheekbones and an errant, outsized quiff. His doomed bride, Elizabeth, sports a white lock à la Elsa Lanchester, and decorative grotesqueries range from arrangements of bones and skull-faced flowers to bunnies and clownish caricatures.

Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s. (Graphic classic. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-186297-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell...


Adolescent criminals seek the haul of a lifetime in a fantasyland at the beginning of its industrial age.

The dangerous city of Ketterdam is governed by the Merchant Council, but in reality, large sectors of the city are given over to gangs who run the gambling dens and brothels. The underworld's rising star is 17-year-old Kaz Brekker, known as Dirtyhands for his brutal amorality. Kaz walks with chronic pain from an old injury, but that doesn't stop him from utterly destroying any rivals. When a councilman offers him an unimaginable reward to rescue a kidnapped foreign chemist—30 million kruge!—Kaz knows just the team he needs to assemble. There's Inej, an itinerant acrobat captured by slavers and sold to a brothel, now a spy for Kaz; the Grisha Nina, with the magical ability to calm and heal; Matthias the zealot, hunter of Grishas and caught in a hopeless spiral of love and vengeance with Nina; Wylan, the privileged boy with an engineer's skills; and Jesper, a sharpshooter who keeps flirting with Wylan. Bardugo broadens the universe she created in the Grisha Trilogy, sending her protagonists around countries that resemble post-Renaissance northern Europe, where technology develops in concert with the magic that's both coveted and despised. It’s a highly successful venture, leaving enough open questions to cause readers to eagerly await Volume 2.

Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell into a family . (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-212-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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