THE CRYSTAL REALM: KRYTOR'S RETURN

Generous action and a nonpreachy but Scripture-compatible spirituality uplift this Tolkien-esque journey.

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Pursued by racists into Kentucky’s Mammoth Caves, teenage Nathan finds an incredible subterranean civilization, where he is a prophesied savior in a war against the ancient, demonic Krytor.

Australian author Ballantyne’s epic might pass the litmus as “Christian fiction,” despite an introductory disclaimer from the writer (a member of the LDS church) that Tolkien-style heroic fantasy was more his aim. Disconsolate after the loss of his parents, teen orphan Nathan Shepparton vagabonds into a small town near the Mammoth Caves of Kentucky and impulsively defends the area’s only black family against Klan thugs. Hunted by vengeful KKK into a neglected cavern, Nathan passes through a waterfall into the vast, incredible subterranean world of Thuromest. Here, pious Hebrew-speaking tribes fashion just about everything out of ubiquitous mineral crystal and have no knowledge of their origin before being brought to this place a few millennia ago. In hot pursuit of Nathan is the Klan leader and Aryan warlord Karl—but straightaway both have an even bigger villain to face: Krytor, a bat-winged devilish menace. Krytor was freed from his rock prison (on the Earth side) a few decades ago and now, having built up his armies of orcs, er, Gromms, plans to resume his ancient campaign of conquest of the worlds both below and above. The only weapons foretold as able to foil Krytor are three mystic gems. Nathan happens to possess one of them, the Key of Knowledge, which immediately confers (besides the LucasFilm ability to shoot out energy beams at enemies) on him the rank of “Lord Nathan” among the awestruck natives. While subtlety, especially in dialogue, is not Ballantyne’s strong suit, he does deploy a few unexpected narrative twists and one or two moral ambiguities. The most obvious of the latter is the no-goodnik bully-racist Karl poised to redeem himself (or…will he?) in succeeding volumes of what is a planned trilogy. Action rarely lets up, and readers with a taste for retro-30s-style pulp adventures set in exotic hollow-earth worlds will be tunneling through the final 100 pages eagerly and looking forward to the next installment.

Generous action and a nonpreachy but Scripture-compatible spirituality uplift this Tolkien-esque journey.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461084518

Page Count: 506

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2012

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DEVOLUTION

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

IRON FLAME

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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