Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

GAUNTLET

From the The Prodigy Chronicles series

A deep dive into recognizable SF territory that’s made compelling by rich characterizations and details.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

In this third installment of a YA series, a 22nd-century teenager with superpowers plans an escape for an imprisoned friend while trying to navigate the intrigues of a powerful metropolis.

Fantasy/SF author Denault continues the Prodigy Chronicles that she started with Gambit (2015), detailing the 2160 odyssey of Willow Kent. Willow grew up thinking she was a mining village girl in the “Outlying Lands,” far from the advanced and privileged regional capital, the Core. In truth, she is the daughter of one of the Core’s most powerful and feared citizens. Willow was sent away as a baby, part of long-standing machinations involving genetically seeded “prodigies” with varied superpowers. Willow has blossomed into an especially formidable prodigy. Besides wielding telekinesis and force fields, she harbors a sentient inner force/alternative personality she calls “the tiger” and can barely keep leashed. Caging the tiger’s lethal fury becomes a regular thing. Willow, having been brought at last to the Core and its regiments of military elites, aristocrats, and genetically modified creature weapons, finds her loyalties divided among several suitors. There is massive, macho, and merciless Reece, her protector (and sometimes tormentor); Thess, a Core princeling and fellow prodigy, seemingly a nice guy, to whom Willow is pledged in a strategically arranged marriage; and Toby, a shape-shifting “mimic” prodigy who shares the protagonist’s background, values, and a psychic link. Oh, there are other suitors—enough to cast a Japanese anime-fantasy series written by Tolstoy—not to mention a whole insurgent army and “guardians” from another dimension looking to exploit Willow (when the Core isn’t trying to manipulate her). The captivating hero plays a dangerous game with all of them, secretly set on freeing an old friend, now a condemned prisoner. Much of the engaging story’s vibe is familiar, female-fronted, YA dystopia material—the chosen one is faced with a universe of impossible boyfriend and family problems. While progress throughout the saga is slow and intricately detailed, each character manages to have a singular voice. The action scenes, when they finally arrive, will keep readers addicted to turning the pages. Since this book is a third chapter, newcomers will be badly lost without maps.

A deep dive into recognizable SF territory that’s made compelling by rich characterizations and details.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73444-417-9

Page Count: 540

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 121


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 121


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • 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

Close Quickview