A beguiling, imaginative piece of whimsy.

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THE HERITAGE OF YAWNOGARD

What every kid longs for—the acquisition of a pet dragon—sparks a quest to save a dying world in this sprightly fantasy adventure.

Ian Sommers, 13, discovers an ancient, locked box while poking around a rail yard in his small Pennsylvania town. When the mysterious contents of the box jostle mightily to be free, he calls in his big brother John, a locksmith and magician, and the two discover a tiny dragon inside. They stash the creature in their garage, but it swells into a monster with a 30-foot wingspan and breaks out to go flying, leaving Ian and John with a lot to explain to their mom and the neighbors. (Fortunately, the dragon, who calls himself Tabor and can telepathically communicate with Ian by means of a crystal wand, turns out to be a vegetarian with an almost Gandhian ethic of nonviolence.) The uproar brings nasty federal agents to town, as well as an old man named G.W. Merlone, who claims the dragon as his own. At this point the story, which has so far been a well-crafted, Spielbergian children's picaresque, broadens into a mythic tale about the planet Yawnogard, which Tabor and his fellow dragons–and their wizard masters–abandoned when an asteroid struck. The Sommers brothers eagerly join the mission to save Yawnogard from the evil wizard Kradark, his black dragon Shang and the Garloids, a race of pallid subterranean cannibals who are like H.G. Wells’ Morlocks but with superior leaping abilities. But before the operation commences, the boys must bone up on all things Yawnogardian, which necessitates hair-raising dragon-flying lessons and survival training–grubs taste great!–along with instruction in a mystical, New Age-y lore of crystals that is somewhat less exciting. Long has a feel for vivid characters and a lively prose style that takes his adolescent heroes from comic suburban realism to galactic epic by way of blossoming magical powers.

A beguiling, imaginative piece of whimsy.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4415-5886-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

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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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