Originally self-published online, this tale reads more as impassioned fanfiction than a fully realized, judiciously edited...

WHITE STAG

From the Permafrost series , Vol. 1

A scarred survivor must decide if she will be predator, prey, or something more.

Violently orphaned, then tortured, 17-year-old Janneke has spent a century in Permafrost as a goblin thrall. When the Erlking’s death sets off the Hunt for the white stag, Janneke accompanies her current master, Soren. Together, they must stop Lydian—Janneke’s abusive first captor and Soren’s maniacal uncle—prevent a war, decide Janneke’s humanity, and resolve their unusual relationship. Video game–like action sequences, obligatory fae political machinations, unnecessary mystical ordeals, random animal slaughter, and melodramatic brooding ensue. Suffering from chosen one syndrome—prophecies, magical birth, inexplicable uniqueness, and desirability—Janneke survives the Hunt through stubbornness, specialness, and a repeatedly mentioned but superficially discussed childhood of being raised as a male heir (she reserves the feminine form of her name, Janneka, for intimates). Russet-haired, green-eyed Janneke has dark skin and suggested Scandinavian origins, while Soren is white-haired, purple-eyed, and blue-gray skinned. Dazzling descriptions and morbid humor aside, debut author Barbieri eschews original dialogue and subtlety in favor of anachronisms, clichés, blunt moralizing, and insensitive treatment of sexual abuse.

Originally self-published online, this tale reads more as impassioned fanfiction than a fully realized, judiciously edited novel; best for existing fans. (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-14958-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Dark, demanding, and delicious.

TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND

From the Hazel Wood series , Vol. 2.5

Twelve pitch-black original fairy tales form the backbone to an acclaimed fantasy series.

Fans of the Hazel Wood series know of Althea Proserpine’s cult anthology, the original stories whose characters escaped into our world. Featuring, among others, Hansa the Traveler, Twice-Killed Katherine, and, of course, Alice-Three-Times (whose tale’s much-speculated-about ending falls oddly flat), the stories feel both familiar—the first was already included in its entirety in the series opener and several others, in abbreviated and altered form—and revelatory, unfolding in all their rich, lush, macabre, and grisly glory. Despite their vaguely preindustrial Western European setting, these are anything but traditional folktales. While every protagonist is female, the themes are not explicitly feminist; rather, the overwhelming tone is savage, angry, bitter, and cruel. Most of the leads do achieve a vicious and vengeful sort of triumph, but only one even approaches a conventional happy ending. Relationships (exclusively heterosexual) are only an excuse for male lust, domination, and manipulation. Parents (especially mothers) are mostly neglectful, smothering, abusive…or dead. Death, often horrific death, is a constant presence, even as a literal character in several stories. Although this collection could well be read on its own, the unrelenting grimness can be wearying; it may be best appreciated for the context and commentary it offers for the preceding volumes. Tierney’s bold illustrations, many featuring stark, contrasting tones of red, black, and white, accentuate the mood. There is some diversity in skin tone.

Dark, demanding, and delicious. (Fairy tales. 16-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-30272-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Few chills and even less logic.

BENT HEAVENS

Can Liv put the pieces of her life back together after her father’s mental breakdown?

In rural Bloughton, Iowa, Liv takes solace in the cross country team and the idea that she will be off to college before too long. Three years ago, her father, the high school’s former English and drama teacher, vanished only to return naked and talking about alien abduction. He disappeared for good eight months later. Liv and her friend Doug check the elaborate traps her father built in the woods during those eight months every Sunday. The teacher who replaced him decides to stage the same musical that was her father’s swan song, and after getting in trouble for an outburst over her insensitivity, Liv decides to destroy the traps…but discovers that one has caught an alien. After hiding the horrifying creature in her father’s shed, they discover it has her father’s compass. In anger, Liv attacks the beast and then she and Doug torture it repeatedly as revenge for her missing father…but the alien is not what they perceive him to be, and as the truth is revealed, the horror mounts. Kraus’ (Blood Sugar, 2019, etc.) newest horror fantasy (there is no science here) might inspire more anger than horror as the protagonists respond to otherness with violence. Outrage will likely be followed by laughter at the stagy, manipulative, over-the-top conclusion. Most characters seem to be white.

Few chills and even less logic. (Horror. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-15167-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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