A bold attempt at classic fantasy that fails at its heroic quest.


The Golden Eagle and the Fiddle of Doom


In the second volume of a three-part series, Joe weaves an epic tale of vengeance, great battles, guardian giants, a prince of darkness and a brave knight from the underworld.

When Rhymes Ramose’s sister is killed, he vows to avenge her death by doing no less than wiping out the human race. Steeped in the storytelling tradition of ancient lore, the novel is told through layers: Capt. John Coiners tells Keith Black the story, which was told to Coiners by Treeon Littlewood, an immortal being. As it turns out, Keith Black, the pilot of the spaceship the Red Dragon, went in search of a replacement golden eagle—“an eagle with a head like a crow and…gold in colour”—after his son burned the first and was imprisoned for the crime. But the main thread of the novel follows the Black Knight, who was the former ruler of the underworld, though he’s just a highwayman now, and Thousand Boils, the Prince of Darkness, on their quest to Mount Kina in order to find the Fiddle of Doom, which has the power to capture an immortal’s soul—essential to defeating evil, murderous Rhymes Ramose. The plot, which relies too much on dialogue that’s often relayed without attribution, can be difficult to understand. On the ambitious, heroic journey, the strengths of the narrative can also be weaknesses: While Joe invents a large cast of interesting, unusual characters, they often appear with little context or explanation as to who or what they are. Likewise, Joe creates a dense mythology, little of which is explained. Set in a sketchy, confusing Earth-like world, the novel has real places next to mythical locales, spaceships mixing with ancient objects, and pop culture references mingling with Greek myths. Joe superbly creates a tense showdown of two powerful armies and harks back to medieval modes of storytelling, creating various songs and poems for characters to deliver in the prose. Yet, confined to genre conventions, the epic journey achieves only limited success.

A bold attempt at classic fantasy that fails at its heroic quest.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1453589465

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2013

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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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A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.


A curious scientist stumbles on mysterious ruins in the opening chapters of this science fiction epic.

Things are really turning around for Kira Navárez. A xenobiologist, she’s finishing up a stint doing research on the large moon Adrasteia with a small team of other scientists, and her boyfriend, Alan, has just proposed to her. Instead of continuing to spend months apart, working on different planets and waiting until they can be together, they'll be able to ask their employers to make them part of a colony as a couple. As Kira performs a few routine last-minute checks before their team leaves the system, something strange catches her eye. She decides to check it out, just to be thorough, and finds herself in the middle of an ancient structure. When her curiosity gets the better of her and she touches a pedestal covered in dust, a bizarre black material flows out and covers her entire body. She passes out as she's being rescued by her team, and when she comes to, she seems to be fine, and the team reports her findings to the government. But soon a kind of strange, alien suit takes over her body, covering her with black material that lashes out violently against Alan and the other scientists, forming spikes that jump out from her skin. A military ship comes to collect what's left of the team and investigate the reports of an alien discovery. When an alien species attacks the ship, presumably because of Kira’s discovery, Kira will have to learn to harness the suit’s strange powers to defend herself and the rest of the human race. Paolini, best known for the YA epic fantasy series The Inheritance Cycle, makes his adult debut in another genre that welcomes long page counts. This one clocks in at close to 900 pages, but the rollicking pace, rapidly developing stakes, and Paolini’s confident worldbuilding make them fly by. Perhaps not the most impressive prose, but a worthwhile adventure story.

A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-76284-9

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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