A complex but highly imaginative fantasy tale.

THE SWORD OF KAIGEN

A THEONITE WAR STORY

This companion novel to a YA series tells the story of a mother and son caught up in a shadow war.

The “Sword of Kaigen” is the poetic sobriquet of the Kusanagi Peninsula, whose renowned warriors have long been the most respected in the Kaigenese Empire. The Matsudas are the peninsula’s most eminent warrior family, possessing inherited magic skills and boasting a long line of heroes who have defended the empire from foreign enemies. Fourteen-year-old Mamoru represents the next generation of the Matsuda clan, and he is already an accomplished student at the elite Kumono Academy. But a new student, Kwang Chul-hee, transfers from outside of the province and informs Mamoru that most of what he and his friends are being taught in school is propaganda. Mamoru is at first offended by Kwang’s claim—that the Kaigenese Empire flatters and lies to the provincial Kusanagi in order to use them as cannon fodder in their wars—but what if he isn’t lying? Mamoru goes to his mother, Misaki, to ask her about these things. She was once an accomplished warrior in her own right, though she put that life aside in order to marry into the Matsuda family and provide it with young sons. When she tacitly confirms Kwang’s claims, Mamoru can’t help but act rashly. And when Misaki receives a letter from her past warning that the entire Kusanagi Peninsula is in danger, she may be pulled back into the warrior’s lifestyle that she was forced to give up. Wang’s (Theonite: Orbit, 2017, etc.) novel mixes sci-fi technology with the martial arts lore of East Asia to create a fantasy realm that is intricate and original. When Kwang puts on the school uniform for the first time, he says (winkingly): “I feel like I’m in one of those old samurai movies.…It’s like I stepped through a portal back in time.” The book’s mythology is dense and takes some getting used to—readers familiar with the author’s previous Theonite volumes will likely have an easier time—but this inventive story of a warrior family is self-contained enough to be enjoyed on its own.

A complex but highly imaginative fantasy tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 558

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2018

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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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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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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