A gripping, if sometimes turgid, work of sinister speculative fiction.


A pair of sisters gets caught up in the centuries-old machinations of a Chinese witch in this debut horror fantasy.

Almost 2,000 years ago in China, a witch named Zi-Ling is wrongfully accused of the murder of a warlord’s son. Before she is burned, she curses the warlord and the onlookers in the crowd—as well as all of their descendants. Her ashes are divided into six magic boxes and spread throughout the various Chinese kingdoms. But the witch’s spirit remains and requests that her sister reunite the boxes of ashes so that she may be reincarnated. Over the course of the centuries, Zi-Ling—or the queen, as she styles herself—uses her influence from beyond the grave to track down all but two of the boxes, increasing her power and bringing her closer to a new life. The tale resumes in modern America, where Elise and Maria Wang are growing up in Seattle under their parents’ abusive discipline. The girls realize at a young age that they can read each other’s minds, but after a bizarre and traumatic incident that leads to the deaths of their parents, the two are separated and raised apart. Their unusual powers grow through their adolescence—perhaps because they are Blood Children, descendants of Zi-Ling’s family who are pure enough that she can possess them and force them to hunt for her ashes. Unfortunately for Elise and Maria, the queen—who often takes the form of a creepy old sewing machine—has decided that only one Blood Child can be allowed to live. Fang’s prose is textured and often unsettling, particularly when describing the necromantic powers wielded by the queen and her servants. Here, a homeless girl is targeted: “Something in her pushed her forward; that something inside of her skull was gnawing her at the root of her neck. Strange and unfamiliar voices pounded her head, and panic swelled inside. She pulled her hair, hoping the pain would stop the voices.” The novel takes a long time to get started, and there are a number of scenes and sections that could have been left on the cutting-room floor. That said, the author’s blend of Chinese folklore with modern horror makes for a compelling combination, and those looking for a high-stakes tale of magic and mayhem will likely walk away pleased.

A gripping, if sometimes turgid, work of sinister speculative fiction.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69504-508-8

Page Count: 500

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2020

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A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences.


From the Twilight series , Vol. 5

A long-awaited Twilight (2005) companion novel told from vampire Edward’s point of view.

Edward Cullen, a 104-year-old vampire (and eternal 17-year-old), finds his world turned upside down when new girl Bella Swan’s addictive scent drives a primal hunger, launching the classic story of vampire-meets-girl, vampire-wants-to-eat-girl, vampire-falls-in-love-with-girl. Edward’s broody inner monologue allows readers to follow every beat of his falling in love. The glacial pace and already familiar plot points mean that instead of surprise twists, characterization reigns. Meyer doesn’t shy away from making Edward far less sympathetic than Bella’s view of him (and his mind reading confirms that Bella’s view of him isn’t universal). Bella benefits from being seen without the curtain of self-deprecation from the original book, as Edward analyzes her every action for clues to her personality. The deeper, richer characterization of the leads comes at the expense of the secondary cast, who (with a few exceptions) alternate primarily along gender lines, between dimwitted buffoons and jealous mean girls. Once the vampiric threat from James’ storyline kicks off, vampire maneuvering and strategizing show off the interplay of the Cullens’ powers in a fresh way. After the action of the climax starts in earnest, though, it leans more into summary and monologue to get to the well-known ending. Aside from the Quileutes and the occasional background character, the cast defaults to White.

A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences. (Paranormal romance. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-70704-6

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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