The maiden installment of this fantasy saga mainly sets the stage for future clashing and questing.




In Burr’s fantasy debut, an unassuming young woman learns she’s the inheritor of mighty “magick”—and a key figure in the war between good and evil.

The kickoff to Burr’s multivolume fantasy series introduces 20-year-old Esra, a seemingly ordinary peasant in the kingdom of LeVara. It’s not long before she learns that her entire life has been a lie for her own protection. LeVara, far from its appearance as a sleepy land under an apathetic king, has long been a simmering battleground for opposing armies of mages: the heroic Keepers and the evil Elites. The latter are the sorcerer-descendants of a fiendish usurper from centuries past; they’re back after a breakthrough in “magick” R&D helped the villains swell their ranks with orclike mutant soldiers. Esra, who thought herself a clumsy country orphan, is really the daughter of powerful Keeper wizards; she’s a chosen-one type, destined to free LeVara from tyranny. Once Esra’s identity becomes known to the Elites, the Keepers snatch her up to give her a crash course in magickal ground rules, combat techniques and culture. She strives to rally the fearsome but reluctant nonhuman civilizations to join the Keepers’ cause. Though some details are interesting—Burr imagines an enchanted app that can make one’s own skin become a kind of MapQuest and text-message display—these expository passages begin to read like laundry lists, perhaps in anticipation of the series’ future installments. The idea of a female heroic-fantasy protagonist is far from the novelty it once was, and Esra is a plucky but generally nondescript lead; even as the narrative puts her through her first taste of battle and bloodshed, she remains rather bland. Despite lots of flirtatious, hunky Keepers hovering in Esra’s orbit, no overt romance beckons the heroine in this volume. But Burr’s narrative moves at a solid pace, and the author lays the groundwork properly. With these preliminaries out of the way, the next installments hint at grand action in the Tolkien tradition.

The maiden installment of this fantasy saga mainly sets the stage for future clashing and questing.

Pub Date: April 13, 2013


Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2012

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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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