Scalding prose takes readers from gritty warfare to an engaging fantasy romp.



An American soldier gets transported from the Vietnam War to a magical realm in this debut fantasy.

It’s 1969, and Clyde Robbins is headed for Vietnam. He ships out as a staff sergeant after officer training, ending up at the Long Binh Army base. The horrors of war quickly become real for him when he shoots a 16-year-old Vietnamese girl who sneaks a grenade onto the base. Later, Clyde is haunted by the death of Claude Thibodeaux, a young soldier killed by a napalm strike. Clyde’s own life ends in a firefight with Vietnamese combatants. But he wakes in a place that “tasted like Vietnam with all its shadows” but is somehow different. A woman’s voice in his head says, “Arise. You are not safe here.” Clyde leaves a burial field and proceeds to the nearby woods. He meets a German Luftwaffe pilot named Jens Grüber, who welcomes him to Irgendwo, a place that collects dead warriors throughout history. In the Citadel District of Mora, Clyde is jailed by the Council under the suspicion of being a shadebringer, one capable of breaking the rule of Lord Ek Maraine. Will Clyde help defeat the dark forces of the goddess Mother Daedrina or shrug off yet another war that’s been foisted on him? Hooper, an Iraq War veteran, creates a viscerally absorbing introduction to a fantasy series. While crawling in the Vietnamese jungle, Clyde describes it as wearing “a thick wool blanket dunked in a pond of leeches and duck shit.” The cynicism of the era is also captured when Clyde tells Claude early on: “You’re gonna die here, boy.” The Vietnam narrative is so nightmarish that the subsequent fantasy can’t help but feel like a rollicking adventure by comparison. Irgendwo is filled with soulless Hollow children, necromancers like the alluring Miriam, and a hauntingly familiar man named Do. Despite being sick of fighting other people’s wars, Clyde finds the inspiration to help the people of Junedale, whose slippery morals echo those of the military that trained him. This opening volume ends on a warm note, highlighting an indefatigable optimism.

Scalding prose takes readers from gritty warfare to an engaging fantasy romp.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63299-468-4

Page Count: 300

Publisher: River Grove Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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Prepare yourself for the long haul. This is expansive, emotionally complex, and bound to suck you in.


From the Roots of Chaos series , Vol. 2

Magic, dragons, and prophecy are welcome threads in a fantasy that extols the power of motherhood, friendship, and self-love to change the world.

This prequel to Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree (2019) has a similar scope to that 800-page fantasy, but dragon lore is less important here than the stories of people and events that become catalysts for The Priory's tale. Each chapter is grounded by a cardinal direction, lest you lose your bearings, with the four corners of the world home to central characters whom readers will get to know intimately. In the West lives Glorian, heir to the queendom of Inys. Her rule is based on the sacred Berethnet bloodline, whose power originates from the knight Galian Berethnet's banishing of the Nameless One, a giant fire-breathing wyrm birthed from the world’s core. In the East, Dumai lives on a mountain peak and trains as a godsinger, someone who harbors a human connection to the dragons the East worship as gods. In the South, Tunuva is a warrior of the Priory, a sisterhood that worships the Mother who is seen as the true banisher of the Nameless One. Their beliefs are so different and their societies so distanced that they don't know of the others' existence. And yet, when the balance of nature starts to waver, bringing whispers of new fire-breathing threats like the Nameless One, these women find themselves united by a common cause to save their people and seek truth about the higher powers at war with one another. This story is epic in scope, but its density is the sort that pulls you in. The biggest pull comes from the humanity displayed by the central characters, whose hearts ache for their children and their futures in a world fraught with turmoil. The fire-breathers bring more than destruction in their wake; they also bring a plaguelike sickness that will elicit sharp parallels to the Covid-19 pandemic. The very real struggles these characters face, whether they ride dragons or bear the suffocating rules of monarchy, make this a consuming read. While some fantasy tropes feel like they've only been added to the story's surface, the pages keep turning because of the heart-wrenching reasons that characters are driven to action. The heroes shine in their uniqueness, with diverse family dynamics interwoven throughout and representation ranging from queer lords and warriors to genderfluid alchemists. This prequel stands on its own, but a word of warning to people who have read The Priory: You'll want to reread it in order to benefit from the deeper knowledge of what came before.

Prepare yourself for the long haul. This is expansive, emotionally complex, and bound to suck you in.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-63557-792-1

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

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Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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