Packed with tropes exuberantly executed.

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NEVERLASTING

ONCE UPON A TIME

In this YA fantasy debut, a quartet of heroes confronts an evil that has pitted two kingdoms against each other.

In the kingdom of Hestia, 15-year-old Alton Krishnac works as a farmhand for the cruel Reswan family. He and Tristan, his 10-year-old brother, used to live in the Cursed Forest until a fire killed their parents. Alton watches King Ardesribe’s men return the body of the Reswans’ son, James, from fighting in Rothilion. Hestia battles a centuries-old enemy in the Aydar, a race of magic wielders who live in the north. More horrifying, James’ corpse bears the brand of the Dragon Girl, an elusive witch whom King Ardesribe blames for everything from earthquakes to the potato blight. He sends his daughter, Princess Elspeth, to the Reswan farm with a command for Alton and Tristan to set a trap for the Dragon Girl. Despite his nation’s hatred of the Aydar, Alton believes some of them must be good. His mother had been friends with an Aydarian named Sal-Beth, and he now cherishes an iridescent stone she left to him. When the boys find a magically defended cave in the forest, will they begin unraveling the world’s secrets or merely become two more victims in a war spanning generations? Though Leisa Maxwell and Elora Maxwell’s debut features numerous time-tested fantasy elements—talking animals; a shadowy, immortal evil; copious traveling—these tropes retain a winsome fervor that’ll delight readers new to the genre. A keen sense of drama introduces a cloaked figure as Lana Dorsen, aka Dragon Girl. Likewise, the story’s true villain, once revealed, is “a predator blooded with a power so terrifying” that the heroes feel “it pulsing against their skin.” Central to the narrative is the bond that forms between Alton and Lana, two orphans whose tragic pasts never extinguish their spirits. The final third provides a murderous kick, and though it’s reversed in the end, it proves that the authors are willing to play rough with their creations. The novel’s final line sweetly echoes its first.

Packed with tropes exuberantly executed.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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