A worthy contribution to the earthbound fantasy genre.


The awakening of a reluctant but resilient fantasy heroine.

Gemma Pointe is a college student with more than the usual cause for young adult turmoil: no parents, inaccessible memories, a peculiar birthmark and recurring dreams that are soothing by day, terrifying at night. All converge in her true identity, which she learns only after a menacing green-eyed stranger named Malakai recognizes and pursues her. Like him, Gemma is a supernatural, a member of a race known as the Essen, which has individualized special powers, potent and relentless enemies, and a mandate for secrecy among outsiders. She’s in the process of activating her abilities and marked for a pivotal role in her race’s destiny. She’s also attached to Jonny, to the boy next door, whose devotion provides ballast, torment and complications as she explores, fights and faces her fate. Shuttling between her previous reality and the world of the Essen, she unearths game-changing truths about herself, her parents and the history of the Essen. Seymour has created a well-described, living, breathing human environment that grounds and carries over into her handling of the fantasy realm. Human and Essen dialogues flow with ease, aside from some stiltedness that sometimes comes with laying the groundwork for such a detailed world: “Why are you so obsessed with my birthmark?” Gemma asks. “Malakai’s eyes narrowed. ‘Because it is not a birthmark, despite your continued insistence that it is. We all have them, always on the inside of the right arm. But yours is an anomaly. The anomaly. The symbol I’ve been trying to find my whole life.’ ” Gemma may be supernatural, but she has a banged-up humanity that renders her appealing and believable. Early chapters, however, lag with Gemma’s repeatedly recapping her encounters with Malakai. The repetition may help readers with the complex plot and numerous characters, but it proves distracting when the action is so limited. This cavil disappears as the plot’s intricacies accelerate; by midbook, both the pace and ingenuity of the plot propel readers to a climax that delivers satisfaction and surprises. The dénouement neatly lays the ground for further installments.

A worthy contribution to the earthbound fantasy genre.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1492747550

Page Count: 494

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 10, 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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Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

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Moreno-Garcia offers a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, set in 1950s Mexico.

Inquisitive 22-year-old socialite and anthropology enthusiast Noemí Taboada adores beautiful clothes and nights on the town in Mexico City with a bevy of handsome suitors, but her carefree existence is cut short when her father shows her a disturbing letter from her cousin Catalina, who recently married fair-haired and blue-eyed Virgil Doyle, who comes from a prominent English mining family that built their now-dwindling fortune on the backs of Indigenous laborers. Catalina lives in High Place, the Doyle family’s crumbling mansion near the former mining town of El Triunfo. In the letter, Catalina begs for Noemí’s help, claiming that she is “bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin,” and that High Place is “sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment.” Upon Noemí’s arrival at High Place, she’s struck by the Doyle family’s cool reception of her and their unabashed racism. She's alarmed by the once-vibrant Catalina’s listless state and by the enigmatic Virgil and his ancient, leering father, Howard. Nightmares, hallucinations, and phantasmagoric dreams of golden dust and fleshy bodies plague Noemí, and it becomes apparent that the Doyles haven’t left their blood-soaked legacy behind. Luckily, the brave Noemí is no delicate flower, and she’ll need all her wits about her for the battle ahead. Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.

Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-62078-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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