Compelling characters, riveting tension, and rich, complex worldbuilding make this a must-read for fantasy fans.

READ REVIEW

The Midnight Spy

BOOK ONE OF THE MIDNIGHT SPY SERIES

From the Midnight Spy series

Hamilton (The Faerie Queen, 2014) launches a planned YA historical fantasy series driven by a strong heroine, intrigue, mystery, and a little bit of romance.

For years Nica has been at the mercy of her abusive father, a ruthless ruler determined to take over a neighboring kingdom. Aided by her friend Toppen, Nica finally tries to escape her father, only to plunge into a battle for survival. She teams up with a young mercenary named Jonn Shanks, and together they begin to parse clues about both her father and her past. When Nica discovers that she isn’t who she thought she was, she is suddenly in a race against time with Shanks to defeat her father before he captures her and destroys what little good is still left in her world. The secret to victory lies in the mythical Getheas Stone. Nica and Shanks must decipher clues in ancient quatrains to find the stone before her father does. The innocent romance between Nica and Shanks is endearing, though her jealousy of his princess “boss” feels petty and shallow given the enormity of the stakes they are facing. Hamilton’s prose shines on the page, delivering brilliant descriptions and fast-paced plotting with plenty of tension. The prophetic quatrains are based on the 16th-century writings of Nostradamus, lending authenticity to the story. Nica is brave and strong, but her flaws and vulnerability make her a compelling heroine for whom it’s easy to cheer. Likewise, Shanks and his best friend, Sebande, are complex, intriguing heroes who are equally as dynamic. The trio drives the book, resulting in unexpected plot turns, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and moments of tension-relieving laughter. Secondary characters, such as her depraved father and the wise castle scholar, are well-drawn too. The way Hamilton cleverly layers in pieces of information that become important later is excellent, creating a tightly plotted storyline in a detailed, lush fantasy world. The ending calls upon inner strength and bravery from the young trio, but plenty of loose ends promise another book in the outstanding series.

Compelling characters, riveting tension, and rich, complex worldbuilding make this a must-read for fantasy fans.

Pub Date: July 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5142-8350-9

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Gaslamp Books

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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