A fantasy adventure that builds thrillingly on its predecessor.




In this middle-grade fantasy sequel, Bialys’ (The Chronicles of the Virago: The Novus, 2018) heroic teens continue protecting twin infants who are destined to usher in a golden age.

Thirteen-year-old Makenna Gold is the Virago, “tasked by the forces of good” to protect her twin 14-month-old siblings, Emilyne and Noah. She’s aided by an enchanted lowrider skateboard called “the Redeemer” and three fairy mentors: Marigold Frith and Bree and Dee Delphine. One night, in the Pasadena, California, home that she shares with her parents and siblings, Makenna receives a visit from the Grim Reaper. He warns her, “You are dangerously close to being one of my clients.” The next day, she learns that her school has won the Roosevelt Meir Award, which allows the school administration to send her; her best friend, Stephen Levine; and their classmates Heather Stern, Elise Green, and Sam Taylor on a three-week educational trip to China. Parents will chaperone them, and the London-based Natasi Foundation will pay all expenses. However, it turns out that this foundation is run by the foul Sir Malvado Seaton, who will do anything to kidnap the twins. Numerous “Efflusyum decoys” throughout the world prevent Seaton from tracking Makenna and the twins’ exact location, so he plans to lure them to a place where his operative, the sinister and effective Mr. Xshun, can dispatch the Virago. Also gunning for her is Ms. Creante, a disguised Alghanii demon who’s already failed to defeat Makenna once. Thankfully, help awaits the teen at Nanjing University in the form of Tai-Pan, an Air Elemental who will train her to use the Redeemer in more advanced ways. For this series’ second installment, Bialys deploys more bombastic wit and skillful plot twists. He provides heaping portions of weirdness—such as a talking worm named “Fluffy”—while also guiding characters through incredible transformations. Tai-Pan, a sly transplant from classic literature, is a pleasant surprise, and Mr. Xshun harbors a centuries-old secret that enables a gripping action sequence. Young genius Sam is a fun font of knowledge; for instance, he lets the other kids know that the name “Natasi” is “I Satan” backward. Stephen pitches in with his powers of clairvoyance, but the best help that Makenna receives is Tai-Pan’s advice to never “take a life in anger.” Bialys trusts his young audience to handle some graphic moments, including Ms. Creante’s demonic transformation with “her skin falling away like paper, blood seeping in pools onto the dirty pavement.” There are some religious themes; for example, “blood metal,” derived from the nails used to crucify Jesus Christ, is employed to create an “anti-weapon” to counter the Redeemer. Heather, though frequently off-page, is a memorable character when she does appear; at one point, for instance, she’s determined to go on a shopping spree, “crisis or not.” Bialys’ joy in bringing this world to life is clear and remains his greatest strength. The epic closing events lead organically to a planned third volume.

A fantasy adventure that builds thrillingly on its predecessor.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2018


Page Count: 255

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?