Esse•Jenna and the Soulless Viper

Debut author Dorsey creates a world that’s equal parts fairy-tale dream and anime action drama. Quinton Jackson is an average teenager, worried about bullies, his family, and a class field trip to the museum. Then a strange series of events involving his new digital camera, lawn mowing, and a backyard pond transports him to another world entirely. Unfortunately for Esse•Jenna, a Dream Deity, Quinton falls through his pond and into her life. Almost immediately, demonic creatures called mares attack them. In the course of the battle, Quinton ends up with Esse•Jenna’s magical scepter, Dragonvulge, and, after defeating the mares, they both quickly discover that Quinton is magically bonded to the weapon and can’t let it go. Esse•Jenna’s problems don’t end there, however: Boa-Bogg, the Soulless Viper, seeks the four Ghostly Image scepters, of which Dragonvulge is only one. If the demon finds the scepters before Quinton and Esse•Jenna do, nothing will stand between it and the conquest of both their worlds. The battle sequences splash liberally across the pages, replete with anime-like moves, weapons, and flowery names. Quirky characters abound as well, including a talking dog named Kalmekrazie; Batina, Queen of the Bat Mares; and Esse•Jenna’s annoying but sometimes-helpful sisters. Unfortunately, their oddness often gets in the way of them feeling real and genuine, and this is compounded by the teens’ often awkward phraseology. It’s less of an issue with the villains, though, who are generally far more cartoonish; they keep the plot humming along at a good pace, and the varied threats and combat keep things engaging. Although the narrative noticeably drags whenever Quinton or Esse•Jenna pauses to bemoan the injustice of his or her life, there’s still something universal in their teenage martyrdom. Light, anime-inspired fun that can be awkward at times but still provides action-packed battle scenes and colorful villains.

Pub Date: July 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4848-0288-5

Page Count: 364

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2015

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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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Lots of buzz after a seven-year hiatus, but even die-hard Outlander fans might need more action.

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GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE

The ninth book in Gabaldon’s Outlander series finds the Fraser family reunited in the midst of the American Revolution.

It’s 1779, and Claire and Jamie Fraser have found each other across time and space and are living peacefully in the American Colony of North Carolina. This novel opens with the mysterious return to Fraser’s Ridge of their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their children. In a previous book, Brianna’s family time-traveled to 20th-century America and planned to stay there permanently. It’s clear that Jamie and the others expect the troubles the family faced in the future will follow them to the past; unfortunately, after their return, the book pauses for several hundred pages of exposition. Gabaldon reintroduces characters, summarizes past events and tragedies, and introduces new characters. The text features not one but two family trees (the one in the back is updated to include the events of the book), and readers will need both to keep track of all the characters and relationships. The Outlander series has always been concerned with themes of time and place, and this novel contains intricate details and descriptions of daily life in Colonial America, clearly the result of countless hours of research. But Claire and Jamie have always been the major draw for readers. Now that they are grandparents, their love story is less epic and more tender, exploring the process of aging, the joys of family, and the longing for community and home. The last third is more plot-driven and action-packed, but the cliffhanger ending might leave readers feeling as if the book is just filler for the promised 10th installment.

Lots of buzz after a seven-year hiatus, but even die-hard Outlander fans might need more action.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-101-88568-0

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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