A slyly engrossing tale that deftly combines fantasy and horror elements.


From the Norick Saga series , Vol. 1

A town becomes beset by evil forces in this debut fantasy.

Norick is a place apart. A thousand leagues north of civilization, the town sits alone in a vast wilderness—and its inhabitants like it that way. They’ve grown rich off the resources of the land, though in time they’ve forgotten to keep an eye on the shadow-filled woods that surround them. As they begin celebrating the centennial of the town’s founding—a one-night festival of free food and beer—something untoward is unfolding on the fringes of the community. A magistrate finds a blackmail letter affixed to his door, demanding that he meet someone in a grove in one hour. A fisherman discovers that some of his tools have been stolen. The town’s oldest resident, a woman present at its founding, is behaving strangely, warning of a coming storm. A mother suffering from a vision tells her 10-year-old daughter: “It’s coming” and “You need to run.” Norick’s only defense is the Town Guard, a less-than-professional police force run by Capt. William Breeve. William has been a barely functional alcoholic since the death of his wife and child. Does he have it in him to save Norick from the enemy who is coming? Unfortunately, neither William nor Norick has much of a choice. In this series opener, Kruse’s prose is tight and brooding, summoning suspense out of Norick’s nighttime alleyways and forests: “The hour of chaos had come. William felt the horror of it then, but also the thrill. The world itself had gone mad—suddenly, irreparably mad. Everything was coming undone, loosening, the order of things cleaved apart.” The blend of horror and fantasy is an appealing one, and the author hops effectively among his large cast of characters. The story takes its time revving up, but once it gets going, it becomes a true page-turner. Since more books in the series are planned, perhaps inevitably readers will be left with the sense that Kruse has saved a lot of the good stuff for later. Even so, Norick is a fun place to visit for a while.

A slyly engrossing tale that deftly combines fantasy and horror elements.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73306-941-0

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Fire's Edge Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences.


From the Twilight series , Vol. 5

A long-awaited Twilight (2005) companion novel told from vampire Edward’s point of view.

Edward Cullen, a 104-year-old vampire (and eternal 17-year-old), finds his world turned upside down when new girl Bella Swan’s addictive scent drives a primal hunger, launching the classic story of vampire-meets-girl, vampire-wants-to-eat-girl, vampire-falls-in-love-with-girl. Edward’s broody inner monologue allows readers to follow every beat of his falling in love. The glacial pace and already familiar plot points mean that instead of surprise twists, characterization reigns. Meyer doesn’t shy away from making Edward far less sympathetic than Bella’s view of him (and his mind reading confirms that Bella’s view of him isn’t universal). Bella benefits from being seen without the curtain of self-deprecation from the original book, as Edward analyzes her every action for clues to her personality. The deeper, richer characterization of the leads comes at the expense of the secondary cast, who (with a few exceptions) alternate primarily along gender lines, between dimwitted buffoons and jealous mean girls. Once the vampiric threat from James’ storyline kicks off, vampire maneuvering and strategizing show off the interplay of the Cullens’ powers in a fresh way. After the action of the climax starts in earnest, though, it leans more into summary and monologue to get to the well-known ending. Aside from the Quileutes and the occasional background character, the cast defaults to White.

A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences. (Paranormal romance. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-70704-6

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A gripping revenge story with enough twists to avoid becoming formulaic.


To get revenge for her family’s murder seven years ago, Lore must reenter a deadly contest from her past.

Leaving the conflict of gods and their hunters behind, Lore thought she had forged a new life. However, the Agon has begun again and brought with it an injured Athena, who promises her revenge on the one who ordered her family killed—in exchange for an oath binding their fates together. Lore must hunt down the god once known as Aristos Kadmou, with the catch that she only has eight days. Also, failure means the deaths of both Lore and Athena. Depictions of graphic violence and discussions of sexual assault are frequent, creating a tale as violent and unforgiving as its source material, albeit narrated through a feminist lens. Much like the heroes of ancient epics, Lore is a morally ambiguous but ultimately likable character, struggling to eliminate the monsters of her world while not falling into the brutality of her youth. She is contrasted with the idealistic Castor, her childhood friend and love interest, with whom she has plenty of chemistry. Bracken builds a rich world around a skeleton of ancient Greek mythology that is perfect to read on a dull weekend and sure to delight readers. Most main characters are cued as White; there are two men of color, both gay.

A gripping revenge story with enough twists to avoid becoming formulaic. (cast of characters) (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7820-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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