An entertaining, satisfying take on the magical boarding school tale.



In this debut middle-grade fantasy, a boy learns his true elven heritage and fights to reclaim it.

Cooper Peru is in most ways an average 12-year-old boy. A seventh grader at Thacker Avenue Middle School, he’s of medium height, medium build, has “unremarkable” brown hair, and earns average grades. But he wears headphones at all times to cover up his oddly pointed ears and is strangely attracted to the forest; he’s “more comfortable in the company of trees” than anywhere else. After some puzzling events, including Cooper’s unusual success at an archery contest, he’s selected to attend the “ShadowBranch Institute where he will study archery and enjoy outdoor adventure!” Before going, he learns that he was adopted by his mother when he was 5 or 6, and at ShadowBranch, Cooper discovers an even more astonishing truth: He is part Elpherial, or Elf, and part Viking. Not only that, he’s an Altherion Allseer and the heir to a great fortune. But as such, Cooper also faces resistance from jealous factions within ShadowBranch and from Parradale, a rival school. More importantly, he is threatened by the Horde (once elves, now monsters) whose leader, Arzenick Addick, wants the Cooper family’s artifacts. Cooper must train relentlessly, become an Elf of Distinction, solve some mysteries, and claim ownership of his clan’s chamber—if he can. In his novel, Mister E. uses some plot elements that will feel very familiar to Harry Potter fans, such as the orphaned boy with a special mission, and the unusual school with its lessons, friendships, rivalries, and history. Nevertheless, the elven lore and woodcraft/archery aspect deftly freshen up this tale as does an unexpected twist on Cooper’s family story. Though the plot, as with the Potter series, presents serious challenges and deadly enemies, the author also shows a sly sense of humor through some truly groanworthy puns. For example, Horde raiders of Elven stone-built temples are called Stone Temple Pirates, and a crude, drunken elf is named “Hooka Zenblow” (say it fast).

An entertaining, satisfying take on the magical boarding school tale.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 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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