A fast-paced fantasy for preteens who are ready for something meatier than the average chapter book.

MAX AND THE GATEKEEPER

BOOK I

Like many kids, Max thinks his mandatory summer vacation will be boring. He’s terribly wrong.

Max Rigdon, a strong-willed 12-year-old, was sent to spend the summer with his “crazy” grandfather. Max is angry because his departure will mean losing the starting pitcher position on the baseball team. He’s sure he’s about to have a terrible summer. He’s almost right, although events at Grandpa’s house transpire quite differently than he imagined. Some dark scenes set the stage early: As Max walks from the bus stop to Grandpa’s house, the neighbors chant menacingly at him. Later that night, on his first night away from home, Max has a disturbing nightmare that is something of a premonition. “These things can’t be real. There has to be a logical explanation for all of this,” his new friend Cindy tells him. The explanation, it turns out, is that Max’s grandfather is a gatekeeper, traveling to and from other dimensions, fighting evil and trying to keep it away from this world. But some nasty elements have slipped in, and it’s up to Max, Cindy and Grandpa to right the world and prevent the destruction of life as we know it. While it’s apparent that Grandpa, Max and company are on the right side of the fight, there’s no mention of a higher power or godlike figure; the wars in the various worlds Max visits are being fought over basic concepts such as freedom. By steering clear of religious overtones and mixing a little magic with technology, Max’s story is likely to appeal to many young readers while it avoids offending some of their parents’ sensibilities. Max isn’t fully developed in this first installment in the Gatekeeper series, although he does grow from a somewhat dubious, unwilling participant to an eager protector of the human race. Rather than describing his characters’ thoughts and feelings at length and including great detail in scenes and settings, Cochrane’s writing emphasizes action, which, along with the more fantastical elements, may appeal to reluctant readers.

A fast-paced fantasy for preteens who are ready for something meatier than the average chapter book.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2007

ISBN: 978-0979720208

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Dark Moon Publishing Inc.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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

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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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A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

FOR THE WOLF

Twin princesses—one fated to become a queen, the other a martyr—find themselves caught up in an unexpected battle of dark magic and ancient gods.

Four hundred years ago, a Valleydan princess facing a loveless betrothal sought refuge in the Wilderwood with her lover, the Wolf. The legendary Five Kings—including her father and her husband-to-be—pursued them only to be trapped in the Wilderwood. Now, according to legend, the only hope of restoring the Five Kings to power lies in the ritual sacrifice of every Second Daughter born to Valleyda's queen. There hasn't been a second daughter for 100 years—until now. On her 20th birthday, Redarys accepts her fate and walks into the Wilderwood to become the Wolf's next victim only to find that the stories she grew up on were lies. The handsome man who lives in a crumbling castle deep in the forest is not the original Wolf but his son, and he wants nothing to do with Red or her sacrifice. Afraid of her wild magic abilities and the danger they pose to her sister, Neverah, Red refuses to leave the Wilderwood. Instead, she clings to the new Wolf, Eammon, who will do whatever it takes to protect her from the grisly fate of the other Second Daughters. Meanwhile, in the Valleydan capital, Neve's desperation to bring her sister home sets her on a path that may spell disaster for Red, Eammon, and the Wilderwood itself. Whitten weaves a captivating tale in this debut, in which even secondary characters come to feel like old friends. The novel seamlessly blends "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast" into an un-put-down-able fairy tale that traces the boundaries of duty, love, and loss.

A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-59278-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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