A grand introduction to a magical world and indelible characters.




In this English-language version of a debut fantasy, a teenage orphan learns he has special abilities to combat the anonymous enemy trying to kill him in New Orleans.

Elisse tells people he suffers from nightmares, but that’s not exactly true. He’s spent most of his life hearing voices and seeing various creatures, uncertain if they’re real or imagined. When Elisse was an infant, his American father left him at a Tibetan monastery. At the age of 3, the boy and his monk tutor fled Tibet for India, where Elisse lost what little contact he had with his father. Years later, the teenager moves to the New Orleans Buddhist Center, hoping to track down his dad in the U.S. But Elisse’s visions intensify in America: Though the creatures have previously never harmed him, his latest encounter with a bone monster and other entities leaves him visibly bruised and scratched. Fortunately, he soon meets the Comus Bayou tribe, a group of wanderers: humans capable of changing into animals, such as wolves. They explain to Elisse that he’s also a wanderer and, specifically, a shadowgazer who can, among other things, traverse “the middle plane” of roaming spirits. The tribe hopes the teen’s new shadowgazer abilities can help decipher why recent hostile wanderers are, unlike others of their kind, not detectable by smell. But these wanderers’ newest attack makes it clear that they’re targeting Elisse. He and his new tribe set out to find the culprit who, for whatever reason, wants Elisse dead. Palova’s novel brims with action and mystery, delivering a rock-solid foundation for a series. Supporting characters, for example, seem to be harboring secrets, from Buddhist Center volunteer Louisa to Detective Salvador Hoffman, who’s working a homicide case. There are likewise harrowing confrontations with evil creatures that not all tribe members survive. And as Elisse bonds with the tribe (most notably Tared Miller), which accepts him as family, some of the deaths prompt dramatically engaging moments. The author employs an unusual but effective method for varying perspectives. Between Elisse’s first-person viewpoints, an unknown narrator recounts events via second-person, as if speaking to certain characters, like Louisa (“You are not hungry, but eating is one of those things that usually calm your nerves”). This only adds to the story’s mystery, as the narrator (unrevealed until the end) witnesses the action firsthand but remains unseen. Anderson’s translation from the original Spanish text is generally superlative. At one point, Elisse muses: “I don’t know if it’s the beauty of its streets or the gloom of its culture and people, but the French Quarter that once terrified me, right now under the moon over Bourbon Street, feels truly magical.” But one instance of confusion is Hoffman’s inexplicably alternating titles; in addition to detective, the narrative refers to him, interchangeably, as officer and agent. Readers will likely anticipate a sequel, as the novel ends on a smashing cliffhanger. The book’s stellar cover and the few illustrations featured in the story are courtesy of the author, who’s also a skilled artist.

A grand introduction to a magical world and indelible characters.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2018


Page Count: 321

Publisher: The Mage's Lantern LLC

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


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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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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