A darkly imaginative thriller featuring plenty of sharp characters and emotional complexity.


A teen becomes an apprentice to a murderous fanatic with an incredible power in this supernatural novel.

Jack Harper was 7 years old when she first killed a person. In his mansion’s basement, Cyrus Harper instructed his adopted daughter to use a butterfly needle on Roland James’ neck, bleeding him out. And yet later that night, Roland was alive and well. Cyrus has a power, coming from a secret source, that can resurrect the dead, heal the sick, or simply rejuvenate the weary. He’s decided to raise Jack alongside his own son, Alex, while building an organization dedicated to “devolution, chaos, and the downfall of innocence.” By destroying innocence, Cyrus may “ascend” beyond the mortal confines of humanity. Throughout her teen years, Jack learns finer things, such as playing the piano, but also how to kill remorselessly. She comes to learn that Cyrus’ power draws from a living being locked in a hidden basement chamber. Eventually, Cyrus wants 17-year-old Jack to help oversee his burgeoning flock of devotees that he assembles from the needy and homeless. She sees in action a monstrous supernatural force that disintegrates those who have betrayed Cyrus. Jack has never imagined turning against her father figure. But his ultimate plan to destroy innocent life is so shocking and violent that she decides she must stop him. In this series opener, Barlow breathes life into an exceedingly dark fantasy that should leave readers terrified of the outcome. Key to Cyrus’ power is an oblong red box that coughs up black stones marked with the name of whoever has pivoted from the cause. The author’s delightful game, then, is to help her protagonist outmaneuver this box. Jack, meanwhile, uses heroin to forget the faces of her victims. The prose captures the dismal truth of being in an abusive relationship with lines like “Reality was a bit like a funnel, and all of it led to Cyrus.” Thankfully, Jack meets a wise woman named Margaret Whilhelm, who says: “There are things in the world that make you more you than your origins.” A savvy finale adds several new pieces to the game board, making the sequel unmissable.

A darkly imaginative thriller featuring plenty of sharp characters and emotional complexity.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-64428-053-9

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Will hook readers with its gripping worldbuilding, well-rounded characters, and fantastic horror.


Seeking a place to call home, Olivia uncovers long-buried secrets after arriving at Gallant.

Olivia Prior has always hoped for a place to belong and a family that cares for her. Instead, she’s isolated at Merilance School for Independent Girls, with its strict matrons, shunned by students who ostracize and torment her for being mute. Olivia uses sign language, taught to her by a now-departed matron (although nobody else signs); treasures the journal belonging to the mother she doesn’t remember; and can see ghouls. When she receives a letter from her uncle, Arthur Prior, inviting her to live at his manor, Olivia leaps at the chance. However, instead of the big, welcoming family she imagined, the opulent yet run-down Gallant only holds Matthew, her irritable cousin, and kindly caretakers Hannah and Edgar. Olivia unravels the ominous secrets of both her family and the house, where ghouls lurk around every corner and the dilapidated garden gate calls to her. The evolving relationships between Olivia and her found family shine, and themes of freedom, the self, and belonging are well depicted. The gripping writing and effective incorporation of horror elements, including haunting, inky artwork, are satisfyingly spine-tingling. Olivia’s use of sign language and her artistic talents, part of the exploration of the importance of communication, are skillfully incorporated into the overall story. Olivia and the main cast are White.

Will hook readers with its gripping worldbuilding, well-rounded characters, and fantastic horror. (Fantasy. 12-adult)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-283577-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.


Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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