Fans of heavy metal–style sword slashing nastiness will take to this outlandish adventure.



An illustrated novel about an unlikely hero and his adventures in a violent future.

From debut authors Zielinski and Stempka comes Boldizar Halfwater, a handyman drug addict who, at 5 feet 6 inches tall and “barely weighing over 100 pounds when fully clothed…was not an imposing figure.” Boldizar lives alone in a dusty, humble dwelling, fueling his days with cocaine and general indifference. “Simply put—he was lazy, and preferred to spend more time relaxing with a cool drink and a pile of drugs than toiling in his workshop fixing broken items.” After fixing a mechanical dog washer and polisher for local tough man Billy Von Bixby, Boldizar’s lazy life abruptly changes. Upon delivery of the repaired item, Boldizar inexplicably murders Billy with a pocket knife. Why would Boldizar murder one of the most dangerous men in town? Even he isn’t sure. Fortunately for Boldizar, his friend Reginald is around with his horse Alabama Cush. The two escape to the woods, where they are pursued by the corpulent, cannibalistic Bittertight (“Small pieces of food spit and hopped out of his flapping jaws like fleas from a dogs bark”), head of the Goughnuts Guard. Once out of immediate danger, Boldizar learns that the dog polisher contains a glowing blue pendant, leading him to ask, “What kind of fucked up jewelry is this?” So begins a quest to find out just what kind of jewelry it is while avoiding capture from the feared Bittertight. Encountering everything from a powerful gladiator to a Screamicorn, a “demonically hellish red horse” that kills its victims with a scream, the hero has multiple zany, gory exploits. The overall outrageousness of events will excite readers unperturbed by exploding body parts and allusions to crude sexual practices (“Usually he would look to mastiffs to service his sexual needs since they couldn’t judge him, and the rules of bestiality were long since forgotten”). While Boldizar himself does not prove the most intriguing hero, his story involves enough peripheral inventiveness to please readers of similar works.

Fans of heavy metal–style sword slashing nastiness will take to this outlandish adventure.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499372342

Page Count: 288

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

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

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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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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.


Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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