Readers will be guessing until the end in this successful friendship-filled adventure.

The Gatekeeper’s Forbidden Secret

In a sleepy town 50 miles south of London, a young boy and his sister travel through time to find their lost dog in this debut novel.

When her beloved dog, Buddy, goes missing, a young girl named Addy sets off looking for him across her neighbor’s garden. While searching, Addy sees Buddy slip through a passageway created by a mockingbird. Before she can retrieve him, the passage closes up, leaving behind a gold coin. When she tells her parents what she saw, they think she’s covering up her theft of the coin from their neighbor Alan Westing, an antiques collector and renowned physicist. Addy’s parents decide she must work off her misconduct by spending the summer tending his castle gardens while her brother Colin supervises. As the summer progresses, mysterious happenings around the castle lead Colin to believe Addy’s original story, and the two set off to reopen the portal. The cast of characters snowballs as the story moves through different dimensions. It’s in these time jumps that the plot begins to muddle. In Colin and Addy’s reality, Alan Westing’s academic research on string theory draws interest from an unnamed villain who will stop at nothing to get his hands on Westing’s findings. This tangent takes on a pedantic tone that expounds upon scientific theories about time travel, removing the reader from the central narrative. Additionally, uninspired place names (e.g., Caves of Never) and onomatopoeia-heavy action sequences detract from an otherwise well-conceived fantasy world with lovable characters, some of whom are brought to life with black-and-white illustrations. As the siblings explore the far corners of an alternate world, the big reveal of the titular gatekeeper is as satisfying as the interplay of box office–level thrills and tender character study.

Readers will be guessing until the end in this successful friendship-filled adventure.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62015-437-3

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Booktrope Editions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2015

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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