A complex, satisfying fantasy novel from an author who may command a large genre following very soon.

The Heresy Within

BOOK 1 OF THE TIES THAT BIND

In the first installment of Hayes’ trilogy, Renaissance-style sovereign city-states vie for power and supremacy.

God-Emperor of Sarth orders Thanquil Darkheart, an Arbiter of the Inquisition (who hunts down heretics and renegade sorcerers), to track a traitor. The journey takes him to the city of Chade. The brutal thief Black Thorn, who’s killed many Arbiters in his day, leads a crew of equally disreputable outlaws into Chade on the most dangerous job of their careers. Master swordswoman Jezzet Vel’um flees from a powerful enemy across the lawless wastelands of the Wild, intent on reaching Chade. Tangled and intertwined, with a large roster of colorful secondary characters, the stories of the three main characters—Thanquil, Jezzet and Black Thorn—converge in a well-orchestrated plot driven by colorful character interaction and set against a somewhat derivative fantasy backdrop. By focusing the first volume of his trilogy on three deeply flawed individuals (Black Thorn especially, so scarred and jaded that his odd nobility is almost impossible to spot, rivets the attention whenever he’s on the page), Hayes is able to give readers a gutter-angle view of his world and so ease them into the larger narrative concerns. And the author has a flair for eliciting the full squalor, speed and violence of these characters’ lives. There are plots within plots (longtime readers of fantasy novels, for instance, will know exactly how much they can trust God-Emperors of any stripe), and although the prose is often overdone, Hayes has a very sure hand both for dramatic pacing and action sequences. Readers will care about the main characters without much liking or trusting them, and few who finish this first volume will hesitate about going on to the next.

A complex, satisfying fantasy novel from an author who may command a large genre following very soon.

Pub Date: April 15, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 314

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2013

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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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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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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