Well-written but somewhat predictable; a solid foundation for what could be an excellent series.

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SCHISM

THE BATTLE FOR DARRACIA (BOOK 1)

This coming-of-age fantasy novel with a subtle sci-fi backdrop follows a half-breed prince who’s forced to embrace his unique identity when his intolerant uncle—vehemently set against a looming peace accord between antagonistic races—attempts to usurp his father’s throne.

Although 19-year-old Prince V’sair isn’t a full-blooded Darracian, his mixed blood—and keen intellect—makes him the perfect future leader for a planet with a long history of enmity among its inhabitants. The Darracians, a hulking humanoid race with short, muscular tails, have all but enslaved the Quyroos, “the people of the trees.” The Darracians live in a sprawling floating city while the Quyroos labor far below. V’sair’s father is a benevolent, forward-thinking king, and he and his wife are on the brink of finally bringing peace and equality to the planet, and V’sair has a hugely significant role to play in making that happen. His mother has even called him “the new Darracia.” But as the young prince—along with a beautiful Quyroos female named Tulani—roams the forests on an errand for his mother, his uncle attempts a bloody coup; in an instant, the futures of countless innocents hang in the balance. With his entire family quite possibly dead and his uncle now on the throne, V’sair must finally come to grips with his heritage and become the leader he was meant to be. The briskly paced storyline features a cast of well-developed characters, and for the most part, it’s an entertaining read. But hard-core fantasy fans may be left wanting more depth out of the narrative: The histories and cultures of the two races are only briefly explored, and the religious ideology (the Sradda Doctrines) and mythology involving the planet’s elemental deities could’ve used more emphasis as a thematic focus.

Well-written but somewhat predictable; a solid foundation for what could be an excellent series. 

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1493572441

Page Count: 202

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2014

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

DEVOLUTION

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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A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.

TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS

A curious scientist stumbles on mysterious ruins in the opening chapters of this science fiction epic.

Things are really turning around for Kira Navárez. A xenobiologist, she’s finishing up a stint doing research on the large moon Adrasteia with a small team of other scientists, and her boyfriend, Alan, has just proposed to her. Instead of continuing to spend months apart, working on different planets and waiting until they can be together, they'll be able to ask their employers to make them part of a colony as a couple. As Kira performs a few routine last-minute checks before their team leaves the system, something strange catches her eye. She decides to check it out, just to be thorough, and finds herself in the middle of an ancient structure. When her curiosity gets the better of her and she touches a pedestal covered in dust, a bizarre black material flows out and covers her entire body. She passes out as she's being rescued by her team, and when she comes to, she seems to be fine, and the team reports her findings to the government. But soon a kind of strange, alien suit takes over her body, covering her with black material that lashes out violently against Alan and the other scientists, forming spikes that jump out from her skin. A military ship comes to collect what's left of the team and investigate the reports of an alien discovery. When an alien species attacks the ship, presumably because of Kira’s discovery, Kira will have to learn to harness the suit’s strange powers to defend herself and the rest of the human race. Paolini, best known for the YA epic fantasy series The Inheritance Cycle, makes his adult debut in another genre that welcomes long page counts. This one clocks in at close to 900 pages, but the rollicking pace, rapidly developing stakes, and Paolini’s confident worldbuilding make them fly by. Perhaps not the most impressive prose, but a worthwhile adventure story.

A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-76284-9

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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