This intriguing tale of mythological beings introduces what promises to be an exhilarating saga.


A comatose 20-something finds himself in a purgatory-esque realm in this dark urban fantasy debut.

A bridge collapse drops David Dolan and numerous other upstate New York drivers into the ice-cold river below. David winds up in a coma at a local hospital. Though he’s very much alive, he awakens in a world seemingly between life and death. A ferryman takes him to Jacob, a kindhearted angel, who guides him to an unknown destination. According to Jacob, David is “important,” but the angel otherwise remains cryptic. This realm teems with lost souls and various entities, from chimeras to archangels and monsters. Some of these have made their ways to Earth, like the vicious demon that attacks and eats diners at the Hooters-style restaurant where David’s girlfriend, Rose, works. Such unexplained assaults overwhelm the state of New York, and Rose and David’s mother, Chelsea, take it upon themselves to investigate. They’re capable women who align with Chelsea’s romantic interest, Department of Homeland Security Det. Brendan Dodd, who looked into the bridge collapse. Back in “the macabre purgatory,” David’s meandering journey leads him to Valhalla, where he mingles with dead warriors from different countries and eras. Some train David in weapons and combat, as the young man harbors a “fighting spirit.” He joins others in battling monsters to make it past Valhalla, where David believes his destiny awaits. But if David dies on the battlefield, will he be “reborn” like the warrior souls of Valhalla? And will he ever return to his reality and see Rose and Chelsea again?

Kearns deftly introduces an epic and avoids cramming this engaging series opener with characters and plot. David’s odyssey, for example, consists of a relatively quiet hike with Jacob, and his time in Valhalla zeroes in on only the few warriors he befriends. Similarly, the author keeps the real-world action primarily in New York and, despite hordes of murderous beasts, ensures that one memorable, scheming baddie stands out. The narrative aptly fuses mythologies. Alongside Norse myths, there are Islamic jinns (spirits) as well as the ferocious, water-dwelling bunyip of Australian Aboriginal folklore. Theologies, too, share the spotlight. Jacob describes earthly religions as alternative versions of the same story. While the varied beliefs spark copious scenes of characters explaining things (courtesy of Jacob or a demonologist friend of Chelsea’s), action intermittently bursts in New York and Valhalla. These kinetic sequences feature Kearns’ tightly paced battles and training episodes: “Without thinking, David flipped his weapon to the other hand, stepped back from the snare of the spearhead, and ran down the length of its shaft. The pikeman’s head rolled through the sand before David could take the measure of his own actions.” Valhalla boasts a diverse batch of warriors, including a katana-wielding samurai and a Russian soldier who was killed by a Nazi sniper. Throughout the story, David questions why he’s in this ostensible purgatory, and the novel’s ambiguity may confuse readers as much as it does the hero. But the frenzied final act hints at David’s purpose and makes it clear where the sequel is headed.

This intriguing tale of mythological beings introduces what promises to be an exhilarating saga.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73739-961-2

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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