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

SHADEBRINGER

THE LAND OF IRGENDWO

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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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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