A sensational conclusion to a dark, captivating series.

SCRIBBLES OF THE EMPRESS

A powerful vampire leader struggling with continuous loss must stop the menace that’s threatening her bloodline in this final part of Tomoguchi’s horror trilogy.

It’s been just over a year since Orly Solodnikova became empress of the Cobălcescu bloodline. Having consumed the bloodline’s most potent blood, she’s the strongest among the vampires she reigns over. But the 23-year-old, who’s forever stuck in a 12-year-old body, is wracked with loneliness. She dearly misses those in her life who have died, and she’s so depressed that she sends away the only two people she loves: vampire Berthold and her “fledgling,” Kristy, whom Orly made immortal; they’re in a relationship with each other and contemplating a future without Orly. The empress wallows in self-isolation at her Los Angeles home until she gets news of her old enemy Trajan. He’s been rallying other covens against Orly and may be behind the recent spate of murders of Cobălcescu in Europe. It gets worse when Berthold and Kristy suddenly go missing, most likely in Trajan’s hands. Orly’s bloodline needs her now more than ever, and she vows to protect the Cobălcescu and take out Trajan and any of his cohorts. This necessitates staunch leadership and politicking, as she meets with such mighty vampire groups as the Eternal (with each member clocking in at 2,000-plus years old) and the Azunu, the world’s oldest coven, based in Rwanda. Orly fights to prevent a war and eliminate Trajan, while hoping that she finds Berthold and Kristy alive.

This cohesive three-novel series is a vampire story with heart. Tomoguchi’s protagonist has always been sympathetic; she began as an orphan and, in her latest outing, suffers great emotional turmoil. She also faces numerous obstacles that mere mortals will find relatable. Some of the vampire leaders, for example, don’t take her seriously because of her age, as she’s thousands of years younger than many other immortals. She’s also still learning her powers, having acquired untold abilities from a vampire she drained. Seemingly endless pressures weigh her down, but Orly, time and again, proves formidable. She wields the unique art of “scribbling” black-crayon drawings that reveal others’ evil, or their “darkest desire.” This doesn’t just expose villainous secrets, but allows Orly to see what she may be keeping from herself as well. As a vampire, she can also access the Oblivion—a personal dreamlike place and the setting for the novel’s most heartfelt moments, as Orly seeks advice and solace from her late mother, Yelena. Orly sits down with a handful of commanding vampires; she aims for peaceful discussions and occasionally engages in fanged conflict. There’s some  intriguing globetrotting, too, that takes her to various lands, from the western United States and Romania to the Netherlands and Argentina. Tomoguchi’s taut prose fuels the narrative, but his dialogue, which includes telepathic conversation, is a highlight: “I suppose title characters in an opera should always expect to die,” Berthold observes at one point. The compact plot more than earns its gratifying denouement.

A sensational conclusion to a dark, captivating series.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2022

ISBN: 9798218074432

Page Count: 449

Publisher: Ink Bleeds Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2022

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A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE WORLD

A tragedy has sent a young artist into seclusion. A potential apocalypse may be enough to bring her back.

For the past two years, 10 months, and 18 days, Katie’s lived in darkness, on retreat from her former life as a rising artist after a personal tragedy eclipsed any happiness she believed possible. Jacob’s Ladder, a remote island named by a former resident for its potential as a stairway to heaven, offers Katie the chance to hide from the rest of the world, merely existing, not healing. She lives each day trying to fulfill what she’s called “the Promise” to those in the life she once knew, though a promise of what is not clear. The closest neighboring islands, Oak Haven and Ringrock, are equally cloistered. Though Katie’s realtor has suggested that Ringrock is some sort of Environmental Protection Agency research station, Katie’s cynicism makes her suspect something more nefarious. The protagonist's remote world and the author’s moody writing are disrupted one night by the startling appearance of drones and the suspicious behavior of a fox Katie’s dubbed Michael J. The wary canine serves as a harbinger of potential danger, and Katie responds by arming herself to the hilt when unexpected guests descend on Jacob’s Ladder. While the true purpose of these visitors is unclear, Katie senses that the greater world is at the precipice of permanent collapse and that she may be the only one who can prevent the impending apocalypse.

A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-6625-0044-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

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FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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