A leisurely plotted fantasy series opener.

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OCEAN DEPTHS

A DARKNESS

This YA debut sees a teenager’s car accident expose her connection to the supposedly mythological Poseidon.

High school senior Callista Ann Sunders and her twin brother, Tad, live on the coast of southern California with their family. Meredith, their mom, is a lawyer, but their father died from a heart attack two years ago. Grandma Anne runs a store called The Broom and Trident and knows that the family has Selkie (sea folk) blood running through it. One day, Anne has a vision and tells Callista: “Don’t drive in the rain today.” Later, as Callista drives to pick up Tad from swim practice, a vehicle forces her truck from the rain-slicked road, through the guardrail, and into the ocean. She struggles to escape the rapidly flooding cabin when a dashing rescuer appears. Callista’s hero is none other than Triton of Greek mythology. He gets her to the hospital, where she lies comatose thanks to the toxic sting of a stonefish. Meanwhile, Tad experiences an elaborate dream that reveals Prince Triton once trysted with Princess Nehalennia, who had been betrothed to his half brother, Proteus. This got Triton banished from Poseidon’s royal family. Triton has now dedicated his life to medicine and plans to keep the bewitching Callista safe even if it means the draining of his own godlike energy. In this fantasy series opener, Sherman (Ocean Depths: A Time, 2017) deftly explores the concepts of healing and transformation—both emotional and literal—by viewing Greek myth through a Twilight-style lens. The author’s own illustrations depict key moments, like Callista’s near death in the truck and Triton and Proteus in merman form, further transporting readers to the shore and beneath the sea. Though Callista spends much of her time convalescing, she does have the presence of mind to ask the mysterious Triton: “Why would someone of your education, age, good looks, and health be interested in me?” Indeed, the answer combines numerous captivating motifs (including mermaid dreams and witchcraft), yet the primary narrative arc—the romance—is paced quite slowly. Readers expecting a strong heroine may flinch at Callista’s dependence on Triton’s healing touch and lavish home. The author also throws down the gauntlet when Triton says: “Life starts from conception for us all.” Fractious events and surprise returns clear the decks for the sequel.

A leisurely plotted fantasy series opener.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Wheatmark, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

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

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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