Brimming with well-defined details and characters; augmented by bountiful enthusiasm and spirit.

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EVE OF SNOWS

SUNDERING THE GODS BOOK ONE

In Rice’s fantasy series launch, an island ruled by seven clans faces body-possessing demons and a threat of a Holy War.

Eliles is a postulant at Istinjoln Monastery on the island of Kaludor. She’s spent years keeping mum about her feral magic (an ability to generate fire); the Church would likely deem it a defilement and torture her to death. She plans to leave the monastery but first learns one of her friends has been killed by the Colok, big, bearlike creatures. Oddly, high priest Woxlin is fascinated by a scroll strapped to the victim. When Eliles manages to get eyes on the scroll’s message, she realizes that some in Kaludor are worried about beings called the Shadows. Ivin Choerkin of the Choerkin clan, meanwhile, checks on a cave-in at the clan’s Ihomjo mines, which left miners trapped. He finds signs of a Colok attack but also evidence of Shadows from the Stone, noncorporeal demons that possess humans. As Eliles, Ivin, and others soon learn, the Shadows are a part of a much bigger plan—all someone’s bid for power. The plan ultimately puts everyone in danger of a potential Holy War, which would surely leave the island in ruins. Though the novel is dense in plot and characters, debut novelist Rice maintains a surprisingly sharp focus. An unhurried pace, for example, allows for clearly defined characters, despite their abundance. The narrative likewise zeros in on recent events, while the Great Forgetting keeps the larger backstory murky (gods stole mortals’ memories of the past). Rich descriptions assume medieval attributes: “A drawbridge of oaken planks stretched across a twenty-foot chasm, leading into a gatehouse with three iron portcullises and murder holes above.” The final act boosts the action, introduces menaces, and involves a few shocking revelations. The tale moreover has a definitive conclusion, while making it clear that further volumes await.

Brimming with well-defined details and characters; augmented by bountiful enthusiasm and spirit.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 522

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2018

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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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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