Characters wreak havoc and homicide on an epic scale in this breathlessly paced action-fantasy.



In Black’s SF debut novel, a ruthlessly efficient assassin must deliver a powerful relic to the next in the line of succession following an empress’s murder.

A coup by a treacherous Chancellor and his hordes results in the death of the formidable Empress. Now, the Imperial Orb, an artifact of immense potency, must pass to her royal heir. The rightful successor is 17-year-old princess Jenanine Blackwater, who’s uninvolved in her kingdom’s conflicts and, aside from healing skills, painfully lacking in magisterial magical arts. Kora, known as the Silver Slayer, is the Imperial factotum tasked with delivering the Orb to Jenanine. She’s the most fearsome of a caste of solder-assassins—many of whom, it seems, are on the bad guys’ side. Depending on their home worlds, Slayers wield weapons based on water, ice, wind, rock, or other natural elements. Hailing from the harshest planet—one that’s “barren and brutal just like its people”—Kora has a host of deadly talents. After crash-landing on Jenanine’s world, Kora and the Orb become targets in a skirmish between dragon-rider Witches and the Muri, whose youthful Prince Cameron makes impulsive choices that place his life in peril. Then again, just about everyone in this novel is in danger thanks to the Chancellor, the Shara-La dragons, and the vampirelike aliens who’ve insinuated themselves into the clergy. Black’s high fantasy novel offers virtually nonstop combat in a realm where interplanetary travel and aliens mix with magic-wielding beings, royalty, and brutish warriors. Various players alternate first-person narration, with the notable exception of lethal, enigmatic Kora; intriguingly, most can’t see past their petty provincial-nationalist feuds, which are often laced with racial overtones, to see the crisis’s bigger picture. The violence is unsparing and often head-spinning: “Twisting my body, I bump her off and swipe at her leg with my blade. She hisses in pain as metal cuts the skin on her thigh, but before she can get back to her feet, two arrows lodge themselves into her sternum.” An open ending leaves many bloody plot points unresolved.

Characters wreak havoc and homicide on an epic scale in this breathlessly paced action-fantasy.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2021


Page Count: 332

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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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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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Twisty, thrilling, and beautifully written.


Things aren't what they seem in the supposedly idyllic state of Prospera.

Cronin’s latest takes place in Prospera, an archipelago state that “exists in splendid isolation, hidden from the world.” The main island is designed to be something of a paradise, “free of all want and distraction,” where residents are urged to pursue art and personal betterment. The Annex, another island, is “home to the support staff—men and women of lesser biological and social endowments.” Proctor Bennett lives on the main island and works as a “ferryman”—when his fellow residents become older or infirm, he escorts them to a boat that will carry them to the “Nursery Isle,” where they are reborn as teenagers who will then rejoin Prospera. One day, Proctor learns that the next person he’s in charge of ferrying is his father, and it turns out the old man doesn’t go quietly—on the way to the pier, he begins muttering seemingly incomprehensible phrases, telling his son, “The world is not the world,” and “You’re” Then things get even more complicated: Proctor meets art dealer Thea, who’s tight with a group of dissatisfied Annex residents, and then he gets fired from his job, which leads him to believe Prospera might not be everything he’s thought it was. He’s also trying to navigate his increasingly rocky marriage to Elise, a fashion designer whose mother, Callista, is the chair of the Board of Overseers for All Prospera—“the boss of everything.” The twists in this novel are plentiful and authentically surprising, and although there are tons of moving parts, Cronin does a wonderful job handling them. This is a dystopian novel that doubles as a detective story, and Proctor is an appealing protagonist, semi-hard-boiled but never descending into cliché. Cronin’s prose is solid, and he handles the dialogue, sometimes leavened with humor, expertly. It’s a hefty book that moves with an astounding quickness—yet another excellent offering from an author with a boundless imagination and talent to spare.

Twisty, thrilling, and beautifully written.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780525619475

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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