A hero breaks the mold in this inventive and energetic series installment.


From the Great Devil War series , Vol. 3

This third volume of a YA series sees a boy’s mortal friend trapped in hell.

Eighth grader Philip Engel once trained to replace Lucifer as ruler of hell. Now, after succeeding in an adventure that extended his mother’s life, he’s begun to focus more on his mortal circle and less on his periodic trips to the dangerous underworld. His friendship with Sabrina, a classmate crush, is blossoming. One day, they paint props together for a school play. When she spills paint all over herself, Philip fails to connect her unnatural clumsiness to the antics of Satina, his tempter friend from hell, who is jealous. Later, as school ends, he feels an intense pain. He discovers that Sam, a former bully and current friend, took a “summoning pill” from his belongings, mistaking it for a pain reliever. Sam has been transported to hell, and Philip has no choice but to take the second of two pills and follow him. Once there, Philip reunites with Satina and her father, Blackhorn. He learns that Sam’s mortal transgressions might place him at any number of punishment venues. More alarmingly, someone altered Sam’s Soul Book. And he and Philip are no longer friends, but enemies once again. In this latest volume of this dark and clever series, Andersen’s hero acknowledges that hell “is repetition.” Nevertheless, the author’s eerie atmospherics prove a continuous wonder, as in the description of “ink-black trees with thorns as long and sharp as daggers.” The adventure, translated from the Danish by Todd, also opens up in ways only teased previously, as when Philip visits paradise and meets Jehovah. Humor remains vital to the narrative, as when God warns Philip about using a chair Jesus built: “Miracles, he can manage those, but carpentry was never his strong point.” Philip’s budding romance with Satina and the possibility of meeting his father, Victor, expand the hero’s arc. The notion that Aziel, Philip’s nemesis, is building an army of those who want revenge on Lucifer—who made everyone in hell mortal—raises the stakes and will have fans clamoring for the next volume.

A hero breaks the mold in this inventive and energetic series installment.

Pub Date: March 19, 2020


Page Count: 320

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2020

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.


From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles.


From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 4

The victory of Jacob and his fellow peculiars over the previous episode’s wights and hollowgasts turns out to be only one move in a larger game as Riggs (Tales of the Peculiar, 2016, etc.) shifts the scene to America.

Reading largely as a setup for a new (if not exactly original) story arc, the tale commences just after Jacob’s timely rescue from his decidedly hostile parents. Following aimless visits back to newly liberated Devil’s Acre and perfunctory normalling lessons for his magically talented friends, Jacob eventually sets out on a road trip to find and recruit Noor, a powerful but imperiled young peculiar of Asian Indian ancestry. Along the way he encounters a semilawless patchwork of peculiar gangs, syndicates, and isolated small communities—many at loggerheads, some in the midst of negotiating a tentative alliance with the Ymbryne Council, but all threatened by the shadowy Organization. The by-now-tangled skein of rivalries, romantic troubles, and family issues continues to ravel amid bursts of savage violence and low comedy (“I had never seen an invisible person throw up before,” Jacob writes, “and it was something I won’t soon forget”). A fresh set of found snapshots serves, as before, to add an eldritch atmosphere to each set of incidents. The cast defaults to white but includes several people of color with active roles.

Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles. (Horror/Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3214-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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