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

READ REVIEW

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.

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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A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

A DEADLY EDUCATION

From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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