A lengthy but thoroughly captivating tale and a commendable series launch.

THE LEGEND OF THE THREE ROSES

A young nobleman and aspiring mage gets caught up in an attempt to assassinate a king and stop a war in Hubbard’s (The Dark Hour, 2016, etc.) fantasy novel.

Nineteen-year-old Kane Bailey is sorcerer Master Cypher’s apprentice in the Consaria kingdom. One night, while making potions in the study, a female intruder accosts Kane, demanding to know where King Hugo is. She tries to kill the monarch but fails, narrowly evading capture and bringing along an unwilling Kane as an expedient hostage. Callie, the would-be assassin, considers ransoming Kane, as he’s a noble, but she’s already angered her clan leader, Giacomo Kently. It seems that the Jackal, a legendary killer, had farmed out the assassination job to the clan and will want his payment returned—coins that the clan has already spent. Callie pins her hopes on the “Three Roses,” which Kane overheard the king mention to Master Cypher on the night of the attempted assassination. Neither Kane nor Callie knows what the Three Roses actually are, but Callie is sure that they must be valuable—and that they somehow relate to the ongoing war against the neighboring land of Lonsaran, which King Hugo’s been avidly promoting. The two’s search, meanwhile, will take them to seedy places like The Silver Vein, which is rife with hooligans who won’t think twice about abducting a nobleman—or doing something worse. Along the way, Callie and Kane keep their eyes open for the lethal Jackal, who’s specifically targeted her for his refund. Hubbard’s story highlights a few familiar fantasy genre elements: goblins rear their ugly heads, and Callie’s clan buys a magic-negating crystal with the coins that they accepted for the proposed hit. But the author concentrates mainly on his story’s human element, and as such, his characters are well-developed. Kane’s noble status makes him rather stuffy, and he’s shown to be disconcerted by a decent meal of fatty steak, sans utensils. He also witnesses debauchery that’s a sharp contrast to his noble life; in The Silver Vein alone, Kane spots a cockfight, a couple engaged in public sex, blatant drunkards, and a bevy of fresh corpses. The highly detailed descriptions are coupled with contemporary-sounding dialogue, as when Callie assures Kane that his use of magic “totally kick[s] ass.” Hubbard doesn’t specify the year in which the story takes place, which subverts expectations that some readers may have for a tale set in centuries past. Memorable moments include Callie “city-jumping” (which is sometimes more bluntly called “roof-jumping”) and one sinister character requesting volunteers for a religious practice called the Gateway to Heaven, which is, quite simply, torture. The impressively expansive plot includes men and women being conscripted into the king’s army and an intriguing, somewhat familiar religion featuring Micah, the son of God. The characters’ quest to find the Roses gets sidetracked during the final act, which briefly separates Callie and Kane, but the hunt will clearly continue in the planned sequel.

A lengthy but thoroughly captivating tale and a commendable series launch.

Pub Date: June 4, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 509

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2017

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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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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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