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

HALFWATER

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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A new series starts off with a bang.

A QUEEN IN HIDING

A queen and her young daughter are forced to separate and go into hiding when a corrupt politician tries to take over the kingdom.

Queen Cressa of Weirandale is worried about her 8-year-old daughter, the “princella” Cerúlia. The people of Weirandale worship a water spirit, Nargis, who grants each queen a special gift called a Talent. Cressa herself is able to meddle with memories, for example, and her mother possessed supernatural strategic abilities that served her well in battle. Cerúlia, however, appears to have none, because surely her insistence that she can talk to animals is only her young imagination running wild. When Cerúlia’s many pets warn her about assassins creeping into the royal chambers, the girl is able to save herself and her mother. Cressa uses her Talent, which actually extends to forcing anyone to tell her the truth, to root out traitors among the aristocracy, led by the power-hungry Lord Matwyck. Fearing for her daughter’s life and her own, Cressa takes Cerúlia and flees. Thinking Cerúlia will be safer away from her mother, Cressa takes the girl to a kind peasant family and adjusts their memories so they believe Cerúlia is their adopted daughter. Kozloff’s debut is the first of four Nine Realms books, and Tor plans to publish them over just four months. Luckily, the series opener is a strong start, so readers will be grateful for the short wait before Book 2. Kozloff sets a solid stage with glimpses into other characters and nations while keeping the book together with a clear, propulsive plot.

A new series starts off with a bang.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-16854-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

GIDEON THE NINTH

From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 1

This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery.

Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition...and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences.

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31319-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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