by E.M. Williams ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 27, 2022
An action-packed tale of valiant heroes and vibrant, unforgettable monsters.
Awards & Accolades
Canadians with extraordinary abilities battle otherworldly creatures in this debut paranormal novel.
Chinese Canadian real estate agent Anna Lin steps outside late one night to boot some pesky raccoons off her family’s property. But apparently the noise she heard is a tentacled, serpentine beast hiding in the garage and flashing razor-sharp teeth. She reacts instinctively and takes the monster out with “xhen” energy, a formidable power she hasn’t used in years. (A bolt “burns a streaking hole straight through the creature’s mouth and out the back of its head.”) She learned how to use xhen as a child alongside her twin brother, Jason, and their Anishinaabe best friend, Dave LaRoque Montcalm. Soon, much bigger creatures menacingly fly over Toronto, and Anna doesn’t hesitate to combat these “skyworms.” Jason, now an emergency room doctor, and former CEO Dave quickly join her side as more skyworms appear. Their xhen teacher, Kalos, guides them as an inner voice and sometimes takes over one of their bodies. Apparently, this isn’t the first time the massive, shiny-scaled beasts have attacked the world, and the three xhen-wielding “Xenthians” may be humanity’s only chance at surviving. In this series opener, Williams aptly develops this trio of protagonists. The twins, for example, begin the story estranged, having had dramatically different responses to their mother’s chemotherapy and subsequent death. The author is unmistakably paving the way for future volumes, merely hinting at such subplots as the skyworms’ origin and the heroes’ past training with Kalos. Still, there’s a wealth of exhilarating action scenes brimming with bright energy pulses as well as powers like teleportation and telepathy. The novel’s latter half rarely slows down, as even the Xenthians’ taking a breather retains the intensity of an active battlefield. Williams’ descriptions run through an array of colors, from slithering orange skyworms and human soldiers’ military green to the glowing blue light that Anna’s xhen generates. Readers may want some answers in the sequel but will surely look forward to more superpowered clashes.An action-packed tale of valiant heroes and vibrant, unforgettable monsters.
Pub Date: June 27, 2022
Page Count: 356
Publisher: Circle Star Publishing
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Olivie Blake ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
The latest in a series of rereleases from a prolific fantasist’s previously self-published works is a contemporary spin on the fairytale “Godfather Death.”
Viola Marek is an aswang, a shapeshifting vampire from Filipino folklore. She’s also a Chicago real estate agent trying to sell a mansion even while the ghost of its last owner, Thomas Edward Parker IV, is doing his supernatural best to block the sale. In a desperate attempt to earn her commission, she hires Fox D’Mora, Death’s mortal godson, to use his connection to get the ghost to leave. Unfortunately, Death is unavailable: He’s been kidnapped, and to get him back and prevent a worlds-spanning catastrophe, Fox, Vi, the ghost, and assorted other supernatural creatures will have to enter a high-stakes gambling game that usually only immortals can play…but rarely win. The story begins with an unusual blend of myth, fairy tale, and cosmology and inevitably descends to an almost unbearable level of sentimentality, which is simultaneously a refreshing change from Blake’s usual tableau of self-involved, selfish characters who seem driven toward tragedies of their own making. Blake could definitely do a better job at showing the love between characters rather than merely telling the reader that they’re in love. She also has an unfortunate tendency to skip potentially intriguing bits of backstory if they don’t immediately drive the plot along, which is why readers never learn anything about Fox’s childhood and what it was actually like having Death as a parent. Nor does she explain why only two of the four archangels, Gabriel and Raphael, play outsize roles in determining the order of the cosmos, while Uriel and Michael are nowhere to be seen. Bits of anachronism—like the use of a rubber band as aversion therapy 200 years ago or the presence of a magical wristwatch from a time long before watches were common—might be intended to be Pratchett-style humor or chalked up to magic? It’s hard to tell what’s intentional and what is simply careless. Now that Blake has a traditional publisher, perhaps the editors of her future novels will guide the author to address these issues when they arise.A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 416
Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023
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by Colleen Hoover ‧ RELEASE DATE: Dec. 8, 2020
A unique story of transcendent love.
An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.
The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.A unique story of transcendent love.
Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020
Page Count: 301
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020
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