Agreeably creepy, with original flourishes and flashes of dark humor.

HIDDEN THINGS

Supernatural detective yarn: blogger Testerman’s first novel.

In California, Calliope Jenkins of White Investigations receives a phone call from her partner, Josh White, who’s pursuing a case in Iowa, although he’s explained nothing of what the case involves. The following day, Detective Darryl Johnson and Special Agent Walker show up at her office with the news that Josh has been murdered. However, on the answering machine is another message from Josh, mysteriously warning Calliope to watch out for the “hidden things” and, according to the time stamp, left several hours after Josh was killed. There’s no question that Josh is dead. Walker doesn’t believe that Calliope knows nothing and insists on raiding the files. Outside, Calliope notices she’s being followed by a homeless bum wearing a hoodie and clown makeup; being a martial arts expert, albeit with anger management issues, she clobbers the unfortunate creature and thinks nothing more of it. However, Vikous proves tougher than he looks, and very persistent. Finally he persuades Calliope to listen: He is, in fact, one of the “hidden things,” a bogeyman, and the clown makeup isn’t makeup, it’s his real face. Clearly a road trip to Iowa is in order, where Calliope grew up and her estranged family still lives. But Vikous isn’t the only supernatural operator in the game, and the opposition proves treacherous, powerful and cunning, with motives that Calliope won’t understand until much later. Along with the clever, determined, dauntless protagonist, Testerman brings an impressive dark energy to the scenario and plotting, even though, despite the profanities and sexual situations, the characters dwell rather YA-ishly long on working through prior issues and hang-ups.

Agreeably creepy, with original flourishes and flashes of dark humor.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-210811-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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