Stellar characterization puts this vampy tale a bite above the rest.


In Palmer’s supernatural novel, a woman struggling with newfound vampirism learns she’s unique.

A 20-something awakens without her memories. Friends fill her in on the basics: She’s Ember Phoenix, a college student in the Southwestern U.S. While recovering at pal Mason Pieger’s place, her days teem with hallucinations of blood and blackouts. Ember realizes Mason, who admits his romantic feelings for her, hasn’t disclosed everything. She’s a vampire, and he’s her creator who convinces her to drink human blood. Leaving the untrustworthy Mason isn’t much of an improvement—vampire hunters quickly target her. But their captive surprises them. Ember, unlike other bloodsuckers, doesn’t sizzle in the sun. Also surprising is her camaraderie with the hunters, including Cassius Steel. She joins Cassius’ team on raids against vampire nests. At the same time, Ember endlessly fights her “predatory instinct.” She doesn’t want to feed on humans, even the one team member who doesn’t like her. Perhaps worst of all, she can’t escape Mason, who can find her anywhere. Palmer wisely doesn’t dawdle on vampire lore, and the story centers instead on Ember’s identity. Her supernatural side is a mystery, and she often resembles a typical human. The desert setting gives this story a distinctive Western feel. The author, for example, memorably describes a pre-raid excursion: “The bus turned down a bumpy dirt road, leading us further into the dry desert. The sideview mirrors showed a cloud of dust trailing behind us.” Similarly, action scenes are intense. These vamps favor “ripping chunks” from skin over a “neat little puncture.” As this book is part of a series, questions linger, including twists in the final act.

Stellar characterization puts this vampy tale a bite above the rest. (dedication, acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Rhetoric Askew, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2021

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A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences.


From the Twilight series , Vol. 5

A long-awaited Twilight (2005) companion novel told from vampire Edward’s point of view.

Edward Cullen, a 104-year-old vampire (and eternal 17-year-old), finds his world turned upside down when new girl Bella Swan’s addictive scent drives a primal hunger, launching the classic story of vampire-meets-girl, vampire-wants-to-eat-girl, vampire-falls-in-love-with-girl. Edward’s broody inner monologue allows readers to follow every beat of his falling in love. The glacial pace and already familiar plot points mean that instead of surprise twists, characterization reigns. Meyer doesn’t shy away from making Edward far less sympathetic than Bella’s view of him (and his mind reading confirms that Bella’s view of him isn’t universal). Bella benefits from being seen without the curtain of self-deprecation from the original book, as Edward analyzes her every action for clues to her personality. The deeper, richer characterization of the leads comes at the expense of the secondary cast, who (with a few exceptions) alternate primarily along gender lines, between dimwitted buffoons and jealous mean girls. Once the vampiric threat from James’ storyline kicks off, vampire maneuvering and strategizing show off the interplay of the Cullens’ powers in a fresh way. After the action of the climax starts in earnest, though, it leans more into summary and monologue to get to the well-known ending. Aside from the Quileutes and the occasional background character, the cast defaults to White.

A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences. (Paranormal romance. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-70704-6

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A gripping revenge story with enough twists to avoid becoming formulaic.


To get revenge for her family’s murder seven years ago, Lore must reenter a deadly contest from her past.

Leaving the conflict of gods and their hunters behind, Lore thought she had forged a new life. However, the Agon has begun again and brought with it an injured Athena, who promises her revenge on the one who ordered her family killed—in exchange for an oath binding their fates together. Lore must hunt down the god once known as Aristos Kadmou, with the catch that she only has eight days. Also, failure means the deaths of both Lore and Athena. Depictions of graphic violence and discussions of sexual assault are frequent, creating a tale as violent and unforgiving as its source material, albeit narrated through a feminist lens. Much like the heroes of ancient epics, Lore is a morally ambiguous but ultimately likable character, struggling to eliminate the monsters of her world while not falling into the brutality of her youth. She is contrasted with the idealistic Castor, her childhood friend and love interest, with whom she has plenty of chemistry. Bracken builds a rich world around a skeleton of ancient Greek mythology that is perfect to read on a dull weekend and sure to delight readers. Most main characters are cued as White; there are two men of color, both gay.

A gripping revenge story with enough twists to avoid becoming formulaic. (cast of characters) (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7820-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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