An optimistic, straightforward fantasy that would have benefited from a stronger edit.




This debut fantasy novel features a band of rebels who desire justice for the poor lands surrounding an enriched capital city.

On the world of Prindell, beautiful Verdanspire City is wealthy beyond measure. It’s ruled by Lord Alos, who built it with the help of metalsmiths who can forge a special green steel into just about anything. But Chloe Faren, one young “spiresmith,” realizes that Lord Alos and his Legions have subjugated the surrounding lands, commandeering their resources, mines, and trade routes. She defects from her noble family to help the nearby villagers of Ravens’hilock create weapons and train to defend themselves. Meanwhile, the town of Black Twist Hollow has been cursed with high concentrations of dark energy that sicken its populace. A healer and expert in light energy named Bo Realis hopes to trace the curse to its root and eliminate it. Other talented heroes abound in Prindell, including archer Hader Deshinov of Fletcher’s Grove and Éielon Tarsen, a sword-scout from Resenwood. The latter has been tasked by her homeland’s Seer to find the Crosis Council, a secret group with the knowledge to beat back the vicious, land-hungry Legions of Lord Alos. It’s only a matter of time before these adventurers join forces. In this action-oriented debut, Alonge taps into the fun of role-playing game–style adventure by putting his characters through their questing and monster-hunting paces. As a result, readers encounter inventive beasts, such as Corca the Plague Phoenix and Narra, a ghoul of the Fate Woven Forest who “would pick the rotting flesh from his fingers, while playing with demented scenarios in his mind.” The plot proceeds in short, cleanly written episodes that rotate among characters in disparate locales, including Chloe’s mother, Verra, who walks the thin edge of being loyal to her rebel daughter while still being a member of the Verdanspire nobility. Readers may face a rocky path at times, however, because Alonge often groups multiple speakers together in single paragraphs; also, some phrases, such as “right a short two hundred word essay,” contain simple, avoidable mistakes.

An optimistic, straightforward fantasy that would have benefited from a stronger edit.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017


Page Count: 345

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2018

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


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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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