A thrilling combination of historical acuity and dramatic artfulness.

DESTINY'S WAR

PART 1: SALADIN'S SECRET

In this debut novel set in the Middle East during World War I, a reporter joins a dangerous military expedition across the Desert Sea. 

Francis Marion Jäger—his friends call him Mare—is an American journalist working for a London newspaper in the Middle East, covering the Great War. While in Egypt, he makes the acquaintance of Benjamin Wright, a young British lieutenant about to embark with his battalion for Rafah. Without a new assignment, and so essentially out of work, Mare agrees to accompany him, if only reluctantly. Weary of war, the reporter is also shiftlessly unsure what else to do. He meets Brig. Gen. Clement Leslie Smith, who quickly learns Mare works as a spy for Ms. Belle, “the only commissioned woman in the theater,” and that he speaks Arabic fluently. Impressed, Smith orders Mare to join a reconnaissance mission in search of a strategically sound base of operations north of Damascus. Mare is also charged with showing the way to Masyaf, a Syrian area long rumored as cursed, the feared redoubt of Sinan, a mighty warrior who became known as a kind of god of assassins, an intriguing story rivetingly recounted by King. While in transit, Mare encounters his friend Hasan ibn Faraj, once a Bedouin prince and now a soldier and tracker. Hasan entrusts Mare with a scroll and dagger that purportedly belonged to the famed Saladin, the first sultan of Egypt and Syria, artifacts of extraordinary value that would place any possessor in grave peril. The author poignantly depicts a theater of war comparatively neglected by historians and novelists and just as grimly violent as its counterparts: “A strange land, a stranger war. Most have no idea why they are killing or even whom they are killing. Ours is a train full of soldiers lost to humanity, shell-shocked, tired, sent off to a place to kill or die.” In this first installment of a series, King draws from the actual journals of Francis Marion Jäger— beautiful, hand-drawn illustrations from them are included—and the entire tale is narrated from his first-person perspective. This gripping story vividly brings to life a Middle East transformed by the cataclysms of modernity as well as the spirit of its ancient form.

A thrilling combination of historical acuity and dramatic artfulness. 

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Pyram King LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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