An intriguing premise navigated by an affable heroine.

SIREN SONG

BOOK 1 OF THE SIREN SONG TRILOGY (VOLUME 1)

In this trilogy opener, Blackwood pulls readers into the world of fallen angels through the eyes of Ariel, a spunky college freshman.

Blackwood starts the action almost immediately, barely introducing Ariel before she’s attacked by someone demanding she give him something called the Piece of Home. She’s knocked out during the encounter and wakes up in a hospital to find Michael, the most gorgeous guy ever, who takes a sudden interest in Ariel that sometimes verges on being bipolar (although that’s explained later). Ariel continues to be randomly attacked, which leads her to force some answers out of Michael. She finds out that she was adopted and that Michael is a Descendant, a half-human child of an Exile, or fallen angel. The angels that fell from heaven split into two groups—those still following Lucifer and those who realized their mistake. Ariel learns that her biological mother found the family’s Piece of Home and the angels believe Ariel now has it. The book’s fast-paced action is easy to follow while still being suspenseful, and despite some one-note duds, most of the characters feel natural and help add depth to Ariel’s adventure. Especially likable is Barnaby, the goblin she befriends in the Exiles' sanctuary, who watches her back mostly via text message. Smart, strong Ariel is fairly likable, although she has an annoying habit of making acronyms out of seemingly everything. Her supposed love of complicated vocabulary isn’t particularly flattering since she tends to use big words sparingly, like someone trying to impress friends with words he or she doesn’t quite understand. Michael, on the other hand, is a stiffer character, and some of his actions don’t seem to make much sense. For this volume, their budding romance stays in an awkward stage that doesn’t really affect the plot, although that’s sure to change as the story progresses. Some solid twists and turns make for a quick, enjoyable read that promises to grow deeper in the next chapters.

An intriguing premise navigated by an affable heroine.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479141364

Page Count: 264

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

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MEXICAN GOTHIC

Moreno-Garcia offers a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, set in 1950s Mexico.

Inquisitive 22-year-old socialite and anthropology enthusiast Noemí Taboada adores beautiful clothes and nights on the town in Mexico City with a bevy of handsome suitors, but her carefree existence is cut short when her father shows her a disturbing letter from her cousin Catalina, who recently married fair-haired and blue-eyed Virgil Doyle, who comes from a prominent English mining family that built their now-dwindling fortune on the backs of Indigenous laborers. Catalina lives in High Place, the Doyle family’s crumbling mansion near the former mining town of El Triunfo. In the letter, Catalina begs for Noemí’s help, claiming that she is “bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin,” and that High Place is “sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment.” Upon Noemí’s arrival at High Place, she’s struck by the Doyle family’s cool reception of her and their unabashed racism. She's alarmed by the once-vibrant Catalina’s listless state and by the enigmatic Virgil and his ancient, leering father, Howard. Nightmares, hallucinations, and phantasmagoric dreams of golden dust and fleshy bodies plague Noemí, and it becomes apparent that the Doyles haven’t left their blood-soaked legacy behind. Luckily, the brave Noemí is no delicate flower, and she’ll need all her wits about her for the battle ahead. Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.

Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-62078-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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