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GROWING THINGS

AND OTHER STORIES

From high fantasy to monsters to (literally) Hellboy, something for everyone who digs things that go bump in the night.

Nineteen eerie short stories from an award-winning writer who clearly embraces literary horror fully.

No lie: The Cabin at the End of the World (2018) was a tough read because it's terrifying in an unusual way, so it’s not a surprise that these frighteningly imaginative slices of horror are often far more chilling than their relatively mundane inspirations. Tremblay, like Joe Hill, Chuck Wendig, Richard Kadrey, and their ilk, is among the best in the literary business but chooses to play in a fairly specific genre, which is pretty much horror taken to another plane. Well-written, yes. But scary as hell, which is an equally admirable trick to accomplish. The title story shows up first, depicting a slow apocalypse via invasive plants not as a panorama but as one family’s bitter end. It also contains the book’s most frightening line: “There are no more stories.” Next is “Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks,” portraying a junkie—SWIM is a cipher for “someone who isn’t me”—who’s trying to describe her addiction online even as some monster might be nearby. We get a couple of hardcore crime stories in “The Getaway,” in which a knockoff artist is struggling to escape his brother’s shadow, and “Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport,” which might as well have been a deleted scene from Scorsese’s The Departed. The best, most challenging stories are completely meta. “Notes for ‘The Barn in the Wild’ ” details the Blair Witch Project–esque journey of someone trying to get to the bottom of a story while “Something About Birds” finds a writer launching a zine delving into the mysterious history of a famous writer, all structured in unexpected ways. The rest are creepfests inspired by everything from Poe to Lovecraft to King. There’s a little fan service as well—a character who seems to be Karen Brissette from Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts waxes eloquent about the horror genre in the extended “Notes From the Dog Walkers” while the memorable Merry from the same earlier book anchors the equally creepy “The Thirteenth Temple.”

From high fantasy to monsters to (literally) Hellboy, something for everyone who digs things that go bump in the night.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-267913-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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NINTH HOUSE

From the Alex Stern series , Vol. 1

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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