A marvelously fun and intriguing first installment of promising series.

AWEN RISING

BOOK ONE OF THE AWEN TRILOGY

When the end of the world is drawing near, an ancient soul must be reawakened and take control of her power to save the world in this trilogy opener.

It’s 2042, and Emily Mayhall is living in Venice Beach, California, and mourning the death of her fiance, Trey, and getting fired by a boss who had blacklisted her in her industry and made sure she’d have trouble getting another job. Then her long-lost, Atlanta-based druid family finds her and brings shocking news: Her mother kidnapped her when she was 4, and her father has been searching for her ever since. Now Emily discovers that she is not only the heir to a long line of druid princesses but destined to save the world. Shalane Carpenter is an evangelical shaman who has hordes of adoring fans and magnificent magical powers but is unhappy. She’s troubled by her friendship with Emily, whom she once had a secret romantic interest in, and is determined not to lose her. Worse, Shalane descends from a magical race of reptilian creatures living below the earth, who seek to destroy all that lives above them in order to conquer Earth, with the sinister General Nergal in command. In order to survive, Emily may need help from a sexy druid priest, his nephew, and their animal Elders. From this setup Barré creates a great fantasy with a memorable cast, a fast-paced plot, and a lot of fun twists and turns, supported by careful and interesting character development. Emily is dealt shock after shock, but her flexibility and perseverance shine in an engaging narrative. At the same time, the story inspires empathy for Shalane and others who have their own trials. This character complexity befits the detailed worldbuilding that gives varied perspectives on the setting. Yet, if the worldbuilding is extensive, it’s woven so carefully into the plot that it never slows the pace of this entertaining fantasy.

A marvelously fun and intriguing first installment of promising series.

Pub Date: July 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73327-367-1

Page Count: 335

Publisher: PeaceMakers Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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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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