A fabulous debut that proves epic fantasy doesn’t need excessive violence to succeed.


The Last Wizard of Eneri Clare

In this fantasy debut, a hermit who abandoned his wizard training takes up magic again to save not only a kingdom, but also the future.

In the kingdom of Eneri Clare, 17-year-old Tvrdik is a shy student of magic. He, along with teenagers Benjin and Ailianne, learns wizarding ways in a schoolhouse run by Xaarus, the court wizard for King Darius II. One night, Tvrdik hears his classmates sneak out into the woods; he follows and watches them attempt dangerous magic that ends up destroying them. Following this tragedy, Xaarus disappears and Tvrdik builds a cottage near a secluded waterfall, trying to regain a measure of peace. After 12 years, Xaarus returns, finds his former pupil, and explains that he’s been lost in time. If an upcoming battle in Eneri Clare isn’t properly won, he says, the future will be “gray and grim” and “filled with fear and violence, divisions and iniquities.” There will also be no magic. Armed with this foreknowledge, Tvrdik ventures to the Palace of Theriole where he must convince Jorelial Rey—who’s been caring for the infant King Darius III since his parents’ demise at sea—that she must prepare for a most untraditional war. In her uplifting debut, Lindevald mixes traditional fantasy elements—such as dragons, unicorns, and water sprites—to gleeful effect. She cleverly abstains, however, from using a straightforward prophecy to whip the plot along. Instead, she has Tvrdik keep in telepathic communication with Xaarus, who goes on to be trapped in a dismal future where magical energy must be expended carefully. Lindevald’s graceful prose drives the narrative, offering full-bodied atmosphere in lines such as “Surrounded by supple young birches and scented flowering vines, [the waterfall] passed the day in a sort of filtered green haze, interrupted by rainbows.” Readers may also savor the first few hundred pages, in which Tvrdik and Jorelial haven’t yet realized their shared romantic destiny; all the while, they become confidants who emotionally stabilize each other. The epic finale serves the book’s larger point that “Violence, even in the cause of good, only begets more violence.”

A fabulous debut that proves epic fantasy doesn’t need excessive violence to succeed.

Pub Date: June 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-5448-6

Page Count: 674

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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.


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?

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...


Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?