A complex but highly imaginative fantasy tale.

READ REVIEW

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

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.

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

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

THE VANISHING HALF

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?

more