An audacious novel with a hero that braves both mythical creatures and a disability.

ERRANT GODS

BLOOD OF THE ISIR, BOOK 1

To save his family, a former New York state cop follows serial killers into a strange realm of gods and dragons in Vick’s (Devils, 2017, etc.) fantasy tale.

It’s been seven years since Hank Jensen was a state trooper. He’s been on disability for rheumatoid arthritis, which causes him near-constant pain; it seems to have started after a woman named Liz Tutor, a prime suspect in a series of killings, put a curse on him. Hank never managed to bring her to justice, nor was he able to arrest Chris Hatton, who all but admitted that he and Liz were the cannibalistic murderers known as the Bristol Butchers. When Hank’s wife, Jane, and 12-year-old son, Sig, don’t return from trick-or-treating on Halloween, he gets a phone call from Bobbie Timmens, his former neighbor, telling him to go to the cave that once housed the Butchers’ victims. There, he finds a colorful, oval mirror—a portal that takes Hank to a land in the midst of a blizzard. A man named Meuhlnir provides him with both refuge and information, and it turns out that there may be something to Liz’s and Chris’ strange claims of being gods. Hank teams up with powerful people called the Isir and, on the path to find his family, faces everything from elves to reanimated corpses. Vick’s Norse mythology–laden narrative is rife with figures that readers will recognize. Still, Hank’s condition makes him the most distinctive character; when he first heads out to rescue his family, he stocks up not only on ammunition, but also on pain meds. There’s a good deal of back story, including Hank’s initial investigation of Liz and Chris and how the Isir achieved power. The inevitable confrontations are enhanced by Vick’s energetic prose: “With a cacophony of savage, ear-splitting screams, the fire demons fell on the party of Isir.” The expansiveness of the story’s world(s), unfortunately, offsets the urgency of finding Jane and Sig. Nevertheless, the story is thoroughly resolved, and there’s a hint of how the series might continue.

An audacious novel with a hero that braves both mythical creatures and a disability.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 721

Publisher: Ratatoskr Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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