With a touch of sci-fi, this penultimate installation of a fantasy series delivers rich characters and complex plotlines.

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AWAKENING

In this second installment of O’Connor’s (Silevethiel, 2013, etc.) YA fantasy series, a young man, fighting to save the world, is tested when an old adversary returns to wreak more destruction.

When Darrak learns it’s his destiny to save not only his home planet, Earth, but also a distant planet called Dragonath from a form of dark magic called Halla, he and his friends never expect that all their efforts in this difficult endeavor might be for naught. Darrak’s belief in his mission gives him faith as villain Payton Niemel aims to take over the Dragonath city of Mystandia in one cataclysmic battle, threatening the planet as Darrak has come to know and love it. In Mystandia, the Grand Sorcerer has recently died, and Capt. Rorend knows that Princess Iornwen is the logical successor. Iornwen’s confidence, tenacity, skills as a sorceress and humility are unmatched, and Rorend—who has loved her from afar for decades in spite of their class differences—is certain the position is hers. But the previous Grand Sorcerer, Laronem, explains his reasoning for appointing her brother Ipzaag to the position instead, and even Rorend could not argue. After she spent 40 years away on Earth, her enduring youth, which her people take for granted, is wavering—Iornwen is dying. As the group rebuilds, Darrak binds them together as Ipzaag embraces his leadership role and Iornwen struggles with guilt over her impending fate. Although readers unfamiliar with the first book in O’Connor’s series may find themselves a bit lost in the first few chapters, the intriguing, fast-paced storyline and luscious prose quickly prove this installment’s worth as a stand-alone. While Darrak continues to mature, Iornwen’s drive to sacrifice herself in light of her impending death is heart-wrenching, and YA fans will find themselves rooting for the rest of the well-developed cast as well.

With a touch of sci-fi, this penultimate installation of a fantasy series delivers rich characters and complex plotlines.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Purple Sun Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2014

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

ONE MINUTE OUT

Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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