Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring on laughing gas.

KILL THE FARM BOY

A rollicking fantasy adventure that upends numerous genre tropes in audacious style, the first installment of Dawson and Hearne’s Tales of Pell series is a laugh-out-loud-funny fusion of Monty Python–esque humor and whimsy à la Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Worstley is a lowly farm boy who reeks of feces and angst. But when a nose-picking pixie informs him that he's the Chosen One and that he has a destiny, he sets off with a talking billy goat named Gustave to fulfill his glorious fate. Fia is a 7-foot tall warrioress who wears a chain-mail bikini and is on a quest of her own: to locate a rare flower allegedly high up in a magical tower. Poltro, the Dark Lord’s inept huntswoman, who is deathly afraid of chickens, is sent to locate the Chosen One and bring his heart back to her master. Their paths eventually converge when Fia, attempting to climb the thorn-infested magic tower via a rope made of human hair, falls and lands on Worstley, quite possibly killing him. In an effort to somehow save his life, Fia takes the Chosen One’s body and climbs back up the tower, laying him in a bed next to a princess who has been magically sleeping for decades. While exiting the tower, Fia meets Argabella, a female bard who has been cursed to look like a giant bunny. After collecting a Sand Witch named Grinda and Toby, the Dark Lord (who wears a fanny pack), the group of misfits sets off to rid the kingdom of the evil genius behind the terrible curses. The overturning of so many hackneyed fantasy conventions is a delight, as are the countless puns and jokes. But the narrative momentum suffers at times because the authors are so focused on the humor.

Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring on laughing gas.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9774-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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