Fantasy readers will find much to enjoy.

BLADEBORN

Schonberger (The First Harmony, 2010) returns to the fantasy realm with a warrior who battles mystic creatures as he searches unknown parts of the world.

The people of Fortress City have hidden themselves from the world of Draconia. But Bladeborn, an orphan living as a thieving urchin, finds his means of escape with Nightslayer, the Sword of the Ancients; this powerful weapon can unlock the gates of the city. Within Draconia’s sprawling mass live many creatures with a common enemy: the Rhinolon, vicious, larger-than-human beasts that sport horned snouts. Bladeborn’s journey takes him to the Six Realms, where he falls in love with a queen and wages war against the Rhinolon. But what of the land on the other side of Draconia, where the sun shines yellow instead of red? Is this Bladeborn’s place of origin, as he’s been told? Will he find more humans there? Schonberger’s novel is expansive: Readers follow Bladeborn as he grows from a young child saved from a ritual sacrifice into a skilled swordsman capable of magic. His initial goal is freedom; once he’s achieved this outside of Fortress City, his purpose becomes less clear. The story seems to work best if considered as a series of vignettes: traveling the unknown territory; helping the local Drommu revolt against the Rhinolon; leading humans in battles as a general. The author fittingly keeps the protagonist in a constant state of peril, and the book nimbly delivers a motley assortment of creatures—ogres, elves, demons, serpents, a monster that resembles a spider, and beasts with tentacles, aptly named “tentaslimes.” At times, the dialogue slips into the contemporary, with lines like “don’t look me up” and a snide reference to “that marriage stuff,” but the otherwise sober narrative is effectively suitable in tone for a fantasy. The wide-open ending may leave readers disappointed that they never encounter the Lizardmen, but there’s plenty of room for a second book.

Fantasy readers will find much to enjoy.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466373761

Page Count: 444

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2012

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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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Prepare yourself for the long haul. This is expansive, emotionally complex, and bound to suck you in.

A DAY OF FALLEN NIGHT

From the Roots of Chaos series , Vol. 2

Magic, dragons, and prophecy are welcome threads in a fantasy that extols the power of motherhood, friendship, and self-love to change the world.

This prequel to Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree (2019) has a similar scope to that 800-page fantasy, but dragon lore is less important here than the stories of people and events that become catalysts for The Priory's tale. Each chapter is grounded by a cardinal direction, lest you lose your bearings, with the four corners of the world home to central characters whom readers will get to know intimately. In the West lives Glorian, heir to the queendom of Inys. Her rule is based on the sacred Berethnet bloodline, whose power originates from the knight Galian Berethnet's banishing of the Nameless One, a giant fire-breathing wyrm birthed from the world’s core. In the East, Dumai lives on a mountain peak and trains as a godsinger, someone who harbors a human connection to the dragons the East worship as gods. In the South, Tunuva is a warrior of the Priory, a sisterhood that worships the Mother who is seen as the true banisher of the Nameless One. Their beliefs are so different and their societies so distanced that they don't know of the others' existence. And yet, when the balance of nature starts to waver, bringing whispers of new fire-breathing threats like the Nameless One, these women find themselves united by a common cause to save their people and seek truth about the higher powers at war with one another. This story is epic in scope, but its density is the sort that pulls you in. The biggest pull comes from the humanity displayed by the central characters, whose hearts ache for their children and their futures in a world fraught with turmoil. The fire-breathers bring more than destruction in their wake; they also bring a plaguelike sickness that will elicit sharp parallels to the Covid-19 pandemic. The very real struggles these characters face, whether they ride dragons or bear the suffocating rules of monarchy, make this a consuming read. While some fantasy tropes feel like they've only been added to the story's surface, the pages keep turning because of the heart-wrenching reasons that characters are driven to action. The heroes shine in their uniqueness, with diverse family dynamics interwoven throughout and representation ranging from queer lords and warriors to genderfluid alchemists. This prequel stands on its own, but a word of warning to people who have read The Priory: You'll want to reread it in order to benefit from the deeper knowledge of what came before.

Prepare yourself for the long haul. This is expansive, emotionally complex, and bound to suck you in.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-63557-792-1

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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