Colorful characters animate this magical tale with an environmental message.


A teenage girl, along with frog royalty, fights to restore order by reuniting the human and frog worlds in this debut fantasy and prospective-trilogy launch.

Nora Peters’ life in a tiny Pacific Northwest town has certainly not been easy. The almost-18-year-old recently lost her father in an apparent shooting accident that she thinks was murder. Now she has only her grandmother; Nora’s mom died when Nora was 10. The teen’s enameled frog pin, which once belonged to her mother, pushes her life in unexpected directions. Over in the frog world, Queen Ranya prepares for the annual Ceremony of Renewal. It’s meant to affirm cooperation between “the natural world” and the largetoe, or human, world. The ceremony, however, hasn’t been authentic in years. The ritual requires the Golden Pearl of the Forest, which someone has stolen. When word gets around that a femtoe—Nora—has the Pearl, frogs and others, including the Elementos (the elements’ spiritual essences), track her down. Some would just as soon kill Nora to recover the cherished object. But Prince “Azzie” Azzumundo has a much more peaceful solution: invite Nora to the ceremony as the largetoe representative. This throws the natural world into bedlam as nefarious types gunning for Nora, like a power-hungry frog lord, face off against the likes of Azzie’s valiant cousin Princess Linka, who, in protecting the Pearl, also protects Nora. Unfortunately, time is running out. The Pink Moon, another prerequisite for the ceremony, rises in mere days.

Brown’s epic opening installment pits Nora against many villains. Ever hostile largetoe Carl Kincade, for one, claims the girl’s father signed away the family’s property and tree farm—supposedly on the day he died. This only heightens Nora’s later troubles; she isn’t always sure who or what is coming after her. The cast comprises various frog species, like poison, zombie, and tree frogs. Although they occasionally do humanlike things (e.g., speak or brandish weapons), they’re still frogs. They’re much smaller than largetoes and hop from place to place. Irresistible hero Nora not only saves one of them, but, like her late father, she’s an environmentalist, which aligns her with the amphibians who believe her kind is hurting the planet. Nora’s friends form a diverse bunch, from Kameela Bashir, daughter of Somalian refugees, to Minh Phan, whose family hails from Vietnam. An Indigenous friend is described as belonging to a “local tribe,” but no additional information is given. Sadly, none of these teens appear often enough to develop individual personalities. Seth is the exception; he’s a complicated romantic interest, and Nora struggles to remember that he’s not like his abhorrent father, Carl. The storyline features welcome mysteries and subplots regarding, for example, the deaths of Nora’s parents and Queen Ranya’s ascendance to the throne. Brown writes well, portraying an area of clear-cutting as “a field of battle” with “arm-like limbs, slain body-like trunks, stumps, tangled roots.” She’s also a skilled artist, adorning some pages with sublime abstract collages. Readers hoping for answers won’t be disappointed, though there’s a hint of where the planned sequel is headed.

Colorful characters animate this magical tale with an environmental message.

Pub Date: March 20, 2022

ISBN: 979-8985691207

Page Count: 550

Publisher: Sequoia Grove Books

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2022

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Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.


A fantasy adventure with a sometimes-biting wit.

Tress is an ordinary girl with no thirst to see the world. Charlie is the son of the local duke, but he likes stories more than fencing. When the duke realizes the two teenagers are falling in love, he takes Charlie away to find a suitable wife—and returns with a different young man as his heir. Charlie, meanwhile, has been captured by the mysterious Sorceress who rules the Midnight Sea, which leaves Tress with no choice but to go rescue him. To do that, she’ll have to get off the barren island she’s forbidden to leave, cross the dangerous Verdant Sea, the even more dangerous Crimson Sea, and the totally deadly Midnight Sea, and somehow defeat the unbeatable Sorceress. The seas on Tress’ world are dangerous because they’re not made of water—they’re made of colorful spores that pour down from the world’s 12 stationary moons. Verdant spores explode into fast-growing vines if they get wet, which means inhaling them can be deadly. Crimson and midnight spores are worse. Ships protected by spore-killing silver sail these seas, and it’s Tress’ quest to find a ship and somehow persuade its crew to carry her to a place no ships want to go, to rescue a person nobody cares about but her. Luckily, Tress is kindhearted, resourceful, and curious—which also makes her an appealing heroine. Along her journey, Tress encounters a talking rat, a crew of reluctant pirates, and plenty of danger. Her story is narrated by an unusual cabin boy with a sharp wit. (About one duke, he says, “He’d apparently been quite heroic during those wars; you could tell because a great number of his troops had died, while he lived.”) The overall effect is not unlike The Princess Bride, which Sanderson cites as an inspiration.

Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon.

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9781250899651

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

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Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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