A well-executed rendition of familiar fantasy.

READ REVIEW

One Prince, Two Kingdoms

Grissom, in her YA debut, tells the story of a boy who must choose between two warring spirit kingdoms, one of darkness, one of light.

Johnny Boggs and his parents may live in Texas, but they’re refugees from the spirit world, where the evil Queen Nara is desperately searching for her kidnapped son and heir. When Johnny’s mother is overwhelmed in a fight with Nara’s armies, and his father leaves to go and help her, Johnny is forced to live humbly in foster care here in the real world. Though Johnny attempts to do the right thing and always stick up for the weak, his anger and feeling of being misunderstood keep him bouncing from one foster family to the next. As his 16th birthday approaches, he’s visited by a henchman and a businessman from Nara, who tells him he is the heir to the Kingdom of Darkness—but he also might be the heir to the Kingdom of Light. Johnny has until his 16th birthday to make up his mind over which kingdom he chooses. The decision is complicated by the appearance of two beautiful girls, Danielle and Shay, each sent by one of the kingdoms to attempt to persuade Johnny to choose the correct side. Grissom is a talented storyteller: her prose is energetic and smooth, and Johnny is an angsty, Type A narrator. The novel’s central black-and-white dichotomy is intriguingly complex, as in the Kingdom of Darkness: “There are rows and rows of shops, bars, and restaurants with people scattered everywhere, living life on full-throttled desire. My brain scrambles to explain why this can’t be true. Darkness is full of evil, murderous people, but these people are eating, drinking, laughing, and dancing without a care in the world. My heart speeds up. The so-called truth is shattering before my eyes.” The books ends with an abrupt instance of choose-your-own-adventure-style reader participation, which may prove interesting for the implied sequel.

A well-executed rendition of familiar fantasy.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1628541977

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2015

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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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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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