Too bleak for readers on the hunt for adolescent vampire love, but it’s just right for those who like their supernatural...



A teenage orphan enters a world of magic and vampires to learn of her enigmatic origins and her newfound powers in Kell’s (Mandate of Blood, 2012) supernatural thriller.

Sixteen-year-old American Indian Phoenix Arizona was named after the city in which she was found, abandoned as an infant by her parents. She doesn’t know that she’d been born with the mark of the Prime Evil and that her mother left her behind to stop men from kidnapping her. But she’s all too aware of strange markings on her skin that expand every year on her birthday into twisting lines like intricate tattoos. She also has dreams of taking the form of a wolf and speaking to a spirit who claims to be her birth father. When Phoenix holds a dream catcher someone sent to the antiques shop where she works, she has a vision of a young boy being killed by a warrior. This dream catcher, it seems, has a power that people are willing to kill for, from Mafioso types to vampires. Phoenix’s father tells her that she can release her ancestors from a curse, but first the girl must protect herself and her friend Nathan from those itching to get their hands on the dream catcher. Phoenix also learns that she is capable of much more than turning into a wolf. This dark tale delves into more violence than the typical YA novel: Phoenix is sexually assaulted more than once, and the battles and deaths are decidedly bloody. Similarly, Phoenix is more poised and mature than her teenage years might suggest, especially regarding her romantic entanglements. She’s enchanted by vamp Richard, but she understands that she has deeper feelings for Nathan, whom she’s known for years. Kell delivers plenty of action, including numerous scenes of Phoenix, Richard and Nathan evading or fighting humans and monsters alike. Phoenix’s escape from two evil vampires at a club is particularly memorable. Kell saves answering certain mysteries until late in the novel, providing a satisfying finale while leaving room for a sequel or prequel.

Too bleak for readers on the hunt for adolescent vampire love, but it’s just right for those who like their supernatural stories with more bite.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-1492733089

Page Count: 224

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2014

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.


A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.


A teenage witch with a natural affinity for dark magic prepares to run a deadly graduation gauntlet in this sequel to Novik's Deadly Education (2020).

Galadriel "El" Higgins has finally reached her senior year at the Scholomance, putting her one step closer to her ultimate goal: get back home or die trying. After getting a sneak peek at the monster-packed hallway she must survive if she wants to graduate, the witchy teen returns to her classes and cliques with scarcely more insight than before. El knows enough to realize that her mana stores are a fraction of what they should be—come graduation, she will lack the magical juice she needs to kill monsters and make it out alive. Her fake-dating relationship with Orion proves to be a lucky "in," netting her a new string of tenuous alliances as well as access to a wellspring of free mana. But what could be a compelling adventure story falls apart here, as the novel relies on relentless bouts of infodumping to keep readers up to speed on where the Scholomance's monsters come from and what they can do to unsuspecting students. None of these paragraphs-long blasts of information recount the details of El's last excursion, however, and so readers who have forgotten Novik's previous novel, or who have never read it at all, will find no springboard ready to help them dive into the author's newest offering. Those who stumble upon this volume risk being unmoored, as the narrative picks up immediately following the events of its predecessor, without stopping to introduce anything, including the narrator. Ultimately, El's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of every monster in the school, combined with her continued refusal to enter into any genuine alliance with classmates, leaves readers to wonder what she could possibly have left to learn—or fear—in the Scholomance.

A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12886-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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