An enjoyable, well-researched historical adventure.

READ REVIEW

A GREATER GLORY

Hermannson’s historical fantasy sees a young warrior seduced toward adventure by the promise of treasure.

In Saxon Germany in the year 109, a band of youths trap a giant white aurochs (a type of cattle) in a cave. Then 15-year-old Sunu arrives and mounts the aurochs before it charges off into the village. During the wild, destructive ride, Sunu manages to subdue the animal, killing it with nothing but his bare fists. Villagers shower the young man with adulation, and he derives great personal pride from the accomplishment. Later, after some sport with his fellow hunters, Sunu hears a voice in his head say, “You are better than this life.” He then determines that the Saxons should possess and display great wealth, so that other tribes, such as the Marcomanns, will fear and respect them. Then he sees a rainbow leading to Thunor’s Grove. He follows his goat, Blicsmo, into the area and encounters a glowing white mare that speaks with him telepathically, introducing herself as Runa (a word meaning “mystery”). He also finds a golden brooch on the beach that looks like a wheel—a fortunate event that reinforces his hope to become “the most powerful man in the world!” The next day, Runa carries Sunu on a series of heroic adventures, using the rainbow bridge (called the “Bifröst”) to appear wherever injustice rears its head. In many cases, however, the young champion is distracted by the very same spoils that have inspired oppression throughout the Roman Empire. Hermannson offers a cautionary tale, set against the backdrop of Roman emperor Trajan’s systematic corruption; after Sunu saves a family in Bohemia from abusive soldiers, he’s shocked to learn that the local king strong-arms people to pay rent and taxes. But glory and its beautiful accoutrements quickly go to Sunu’s head; at one point, for example, he assures King Riki of the Southwest Swabians, “If I told you everything I did today, the last thing you would doubt is my significance.” Readers will be intrigued by the parallels between the god Thunor (aka Thor) and Hercules, as explained in the line, “They also have a heavenly father and an earthly mother, who produced a quick-tempered, far-traveling son who can out-eat and out-drink anyone in the cosmos!” The resulting commentary declares that those with faith have more in common than not. Hermannson will draw in action fans with a scene in which Sunu raises an army of 312 retainers to rescue three sisters from Colonia Agrippinensium. There’s also an engaging secondary character in the warrior Keresaspa, who sees through Sunu’s callow attempts to woo her. Throughout, the author makes sure to focus on his primary theme: that material gains can frequently be detrimental to familial bonds. Sunu’s character arc, while epic in scope, is charming and fun; Runa often brings the hero back to Earth with lines such as, “This guy is hopeless.” The hero learns much through experience, however, and further exploits would be welcome.

An enjoyable, well-researched historical adventure.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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